Monday, December 29, 2008

New Year on the Horizon

Christmas was so nice this year. The kids made out like bandits, as usual, and my little sister got engaged! I'm so thrilled about that - now I have to seriously lose some weight. We spent Wednesday and Thursday at my mom's. Wednesday was an hours-long wrap fest. I gotta start getting the presents wrapped much earlier. Wrapping totally sucks. Well, I suck at it. The kids were very happy, though. K's gifts included a beautiful wooden jewelry box, lots of clothes, and a new dresser for her bedroom. J's included CDs, clothes, and a vanity table/bench for her bedroom. W's included some board games, a red Nintendo DS, and a floor chair that his video games plug into and sound comes out of it. The together gift was the Wii. We've never been a family to have a big gaming system (I think the last one we had was the outdated Gamecube and before that the Nintendo NES and Sega Genesis - bought real cheap). But I caved in. It's fun and it gets them up and moving. B and I got a new camcorder - woohoo. I haven't taken any video of my kids in 4 years.

We were planning on staying home for New Year's Eve, but this friggin apartment STILL isn't completely finished. The stove isn't hooked up, no ceiling fans up yet, no where to put sheets, towels, and blankets, no curtains, bare walls, bare light bulbs, no table and chairs. It's beautifully painted, rewired, re-ceilinged, and rewalled, but too bare and cold looking. Maybe we'll go to my mom's again.

J has been losing interest in the AO Yr6 schedule, so we talked about it and she decided to try a lower year to see if that works better for her. She loves the whole curriculum, but Yr6 is a heavy reading load for someone who isn't into reading and isn't used to a schedule like that. We're going to do Yr4 instead, yet still keep the 7/8th-grade level math and grammar/writing. She's definitely a free spirit and spends most of her time doing her own thing - creating, writing, dancing, researching, etc. I often ask her if she'd just rather not have a schedule (I'm still the unschooler at heart), but she insists she wants to keep at it. So I just bought all the Yr4 books she'll need. After looking through some of them, she seems much happier and excited to begin. Fine with me. W, is still enjoying his Yr1 schedule - so much so that he gets everything out that we need before I remind him. He's reading very well now, writes in gorgeous cursive, retains just about all of every story we read, and has so much pride in his work. I'm amazed at the difference in him from just 4 months ago.

W got teased by his cousin on Christmas about his homeschooling. Then he looked at me and said, "WHEN is W going to start going to SCHOOOOOOOOL???". Before I could answer, my mom jumped in with, "W DOES schoolwork, is learning more than what he'd learn in school, AND he gets to SLEEP LATE". Hahahahaha. Go Ma!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Movin' Back In

Merry Christmas everyone!! I am happy to announce that our apartment had it's final coat of paint put on the other day and we can now move back in. After the plastering, taping, and sanding, a new set of guys came to do the paint primer, and 2 coats of paint in 5 rooms. We chose beige for the whole place (I just wasn't in the mood to have a multicolored home again) - satin for 4 rooms and semigloss for the kitchen. We went with "Pecan Sandie" Behr paint, White for all the trim, doors, baseboards, and moldings, and Ultra Pure White for the ceilings. The plasterers didn't cover the floors for some reason so I noticed I have a whole days' work scrubbing splattered plaster and dust off my wood floors. At least the painters were a little more careful. We need to uncover all the furniture, scrub everything down, and bring all the bedlinens to the laundromat. We've gotten rid of a TON of stuff and will probably get rid of a ton more.

We tolerated the week at MIL's. Never felt more unwelcome anywhere, but we survived. The kids got a lot of scheduled academics done and we did a good amount of shopping. We went to my mom's on Dec 23rd after work - so we got there at like midnight. I couldn't do another night at MIL's. Christmas night, we're stopping by MIL's again for a couple of hours, then we're going right home. I can't wait.

Monday, December 15, 2008

After 2 months, the apartment is ready for patching, sheet rock, and plastering. We spent the weekend bringing anything that could be picked up to the basement. The table, chairs, tvs, and computer go down today. The guys will be here first thing tomorrow morning. So, no, we haven't been able to do any Christmas decorating at all. But we did throw out 2 huge leaf bags of stuff. It feels good to get rid of things. I just have to keep looking ahead, and not focus on the taped up holes, dust, and bare light bulbs. We're probably staying with MIL for a few days until it's finished - that should be, um, fun.

The kids seem to be screaming for the structured schedule again. We've been taking it real easy during December, but I think we're ready to hit the books again hard. There's such a weird "antsy-ness" around here when the days don't seem productive - more boredom, more bickering, more impatience (and the kids act up a bit, too! LOL). J's CCD teacher thinks the world of her. Yesterday, she came out and said, "J just told me she is homeschooled. No wonder she's so wonderful! You guys are amazing". That's the second time this week I've been praised for homeschooling. The other day at Costco, a friend's mom I haven't seen in about 15 years told me B and I were "aces" when I mentioned we homeschool. I find it so interesting that over the 4 years I've been at this, the reactions have significantly changed. I used to get mainly stiff smiles, nods, and "huh?"s. Now I get pretty much all raving compliments.

We made beautiful ornaments this weekend. The kids blew up a small balloon and wrapped gluey string around it. After it hung up to dry for a day, they popped the balloon, pulled it out carefully, brushed on another layer of watered-down glue, and sprinkled glitter on it. J made one for her Kris Kringle at dance. W and B decorated a quilt square for cub scouts and the kids made a gingerbread house together. It was our first one and I think they did a really good job.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

December reminds me of summertime in a way. We tend to have a lull in the scheduled seatwork and pick it up again with a vengeance the first week of January - just like the first week of September. This week we've just been hanging out, watching Christmas shows, making cookies, and doing a minimal bit of the scheduled academic work. W is still reading lots, learning parts of speech, spelling, doing arithmetic in his head and on the computer, learning to cook, and going to dance, cub scouts, and the Home Depot kids workshop. Today he made a football goalpost, an art easel, and a leaf press. B said it was great and W loved it. They plan on going every month. I'm also thinking of taking the kids back to the art museum every week for the art workshops. I spent some time today revisiting all the free or cheap stuff to do around town and I can't believe how much there is. I take advantage of the fact that we live here and will get to it one day. I guess that's why I didn't visit the Statue of Liberty til I was an adult, lol.

J is reading for her book club, doing lots of computer stuff, going to dance and voice classes, and spending lots of time with her best friends. She does lots of sleepovers and hopefully soon, when this apartment is finally finished, we can reciprocate. So even though we take breaks from the written schedule, they're still learning so much. Actually, I've been noticing lately how many connections they make to everything around them. It's fascinating to witness. W adds and subtracts rapidly in his head, understands hurricanes, reptiles, and loves talking about the history stories we've read. We drove past "Albion Street" one day and he quickly pointed out that Albion was the ruler of ancient Britain. K has been working very hard in school, challenging herself to get nothing less than a B come spring. She's become pretty determined and has high aspirations for herself - lol, and still sleeps til noon on the weekends. Today she went to Manhattan with one of her best friends to see the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and do lots of window shopping.

Monday, December 01, 2008

It's December 1st. I am excited about this month. 75% of our Christmas shopping is done. I'm doing the Christmas cards this week. B is decorating the outside of the house this weekend. And we have a DVR this year to record all the Holiday shows!!

Thanksgiving was really nice. After work on that Wednesday we all drove out to my mom's. My sister and her bf invited us out to karaoke, so B and I met them there at around 10:30pm. B and I sang about 2 songs each. I used to love karaoke -- 15 years ago. I had fun, but I think I'm past my heyday with it, lol. We got home at around 1:30am. B got up early Thursday to put on the turkey (he had it brining overnight). He also made homemade stuffing, fresh cranberries, and corn casserole. B can cook...really well. Mom made the potatoes, carrots, and green bean casserole (yeah we just had to make that). We ate, had great pies for dessert, and we all crashed early to bed.

Friday, we took the kids ice skating. My other sister (G) and her kids met us there. They are 6 and 8 and W loves when they're there. W was a true pro on the ice, which I think amazed even him since we hadn't gone skating since last year. The girls also had a good time skating. That evening, we all ate the tons of Thanksgiving leftovers.
Mom took the girls to the mall (what a shock, lol), and B took W to see Bolt in 3D. I hung out with my sister (M) and her bf (M) at mom's house - I'll call them M&M from now on. A nice fire was made in the backyard in one of those fire pit things. We all sat around it and drank wine and talked until 2am. The girls came home somewhere around 10 or 11pm, sat with us for a little while, and went to bed. Mom hung out til 2, lol. B and W also got home somewhere in there, came out to say hi, and also hit the hay.

On Saturday we came home, I went to work, and relaxed all evening. The weekend wore me out, lol. On Sunday, B took 6 huge garbage bags full of laundry to the laundromat with W. Our washer/dryer is in the basement and we have no power down there. Yes, we still have one worker here trying to figure out the electrical stuff and in my opinion, is not all that he's cracked up to be. We're in our second MONTH of getting our wiring done and I have no light in my kitchen or power in my basement. Not to mention the 6 or 7 2'x2' holes in every room that have yet to be patched, sheet rocked, and painted. I want to scream.

Also, a week ago, K turned 15. I still have a hard time saying that I have 15-year-old. I was just 15...and it wasn't pretty. She's awesome, though. I see way more responsibility, maturity, and good decision-making than I ever had at that age. We got her Ed Hardy boots (chocolate-colored), my mom got her a new North Face short jacket, and my sister got her the Twilight CD. I was impressed that K's boyfriend got her a Tiffany bracelet (lol, one of K's best friends stated that he has now raised the bar for all boyfriends).

Look at our African Dwarf frog. It was less than 1/3 the size when we got it. It makes me sort of cringe a bit when he extends like this. He's huge and he almost looks like a person.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Book Clubbin'

J and I are now part of a bi-weekly mother-daughter book club. This was an awesome idea created by J's friend, 'A. 4 girls (ages 11-13) and 4 moms are in the group so far. Yesterday was the first meeting and we got folders, the current book, a printout about the author, and cookies! We discussed our new club and the girls each took turns reading parts of the book's prologue and first chapter aloud. The book is The Wish, by the author of Ella Enchanted. J is very excited about this. I am too, since J has had an aversion to reading since 1st grade (she had been an eager, precocious chapter book reader from age 3-6, but after first grade, the interest was gone completely). But since 'A reads voraciously, J has recently warmed up to trying some of the books 'A recommends. J is also now reading Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants and is looking forward to not only discussing the book with 'A, but reading the second book in that series together.

Today, W decided he'd like to be a part of the homeschool group's book club for early readers. W has made an enormous leap forward in his reading. He sat on the couch yesterday with a stack of books (usually around 20 pgs each) and silently read about 4 of them. J was next to him reading her book! This was certainly a picture and I wish I thought of getting my camera. W's book club discussion today was on Hello Harvest Moon, by Ralph Fletcher. W and a few other kids were led by one of the homeschool moms on so many great aspects of that book - lots of who, what, where, when, and why. It lasted about an hour and W said he really liked it and wants to do the next one too. There is also a chess club for homeschoolers there and one of the other moms I was talking to offered piano lessons from her home - 2 of her boys are W's age. I'll see if he would like to do either of those things.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Adding More

After giving the base schedule a good 2 months, we're now ready to start adding in more of the extras on a regular basis. W schedule so far has been daily reading silently, copywork, phonics, math, a sight word workbook, and the AO readings (literature, history, science). Throughout the weeks there has been a smattering of Spanish, nature study, art, artist study, and science experiments. There, of course, has also been a nice amount of trips and homeschool group classes to jazz things up. But he's ready for some more. So we started slowly today by adding some art and written narration. We read an Aesop's fable and after he recited back all he remembered, he drew a picture of and wrote one sentence about his favorite part. We have that notepad with the blank part on top and the handwriting lines on the bottom. He really enjoyed that and would like to do that with all the fables we read. We'll also get more into the life and works of Sandro Botticelli and Johann Sebastian Bach this week. We'll stick with just those for a few weeks and see how it goes.

We also are trying something new this week: spelling word cards. It seems that W prefers to read silently rather than aloud. He says he concentrates better. I can tell he is reading by his adorable intense look and a couple of times in every paragraph he stops and asks me "what does this spell?". So, I started writing down all those words with marker on index cards and taped them to the wall. Now he gets to see them all the time and will read them to me as he passes by them. Then at the end of the week we'll play a fun "spelling test" game. He's up for anything and it's so fun doing this curriculum with him.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Urban rangers at Central Park was great again. This month's topic was "Insects" and the kids learned all about entomology, invertebrates, and Madagascar hissing cockroaches. The park was gorgeous in all the fall colors, too. We followed lots of different trails this time - jumping over small streams and climbing slippery rocks. W found some worms and was the first to want to touch anything gross. Bugs were found under logs and rocks and on trees and leaves. It was a rainy-ish day, but I think that just made it more fun. Interesting things can be found in puddles! I took lots of pictures.





After the class, W decided he felt like going to the American Museum of Natural History. Another mom and her kids joined us and we had a blast. We hit the Hall of Biodiversity, the Hall of Ocean Life (I laid down on the floor under the big blue whale and took a picture, lol), the hall of Planet Earth, the Cosmic Pathway, and a couple of other rooms. W and his friend C loved the computer info screens and running to each amazing exhibit. I think the ocean room was the favorite this time.

Earlier in the week we got together with the homeschool group for the first of a series of activities all about the American Indian. This will be the focus for the next few months. The kids made an "Apache pouch" and listened to info and stories about Native American culture. W enjoyed it. J is getting more selective about the programs she'd like to attend with the homeschool group. She's at the age where she's done many of these things already or is beyond the age range for it. I think I just might start planning some activities for the 11+ age range.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Miquon and Mommy Pride

Ok, so I bit the bullet and bought the Miquon math books for W. He's starting with the blue one. I'm actually very impressed at how it covers math in a different way than we'd always done. He's already jumped from single-digit addition to 4-digits + 4-digits with carrying in only a few days. I like the simplicity of the book's layout and the different colored ink on each page. It just gives it that little bit of flavor to keep things interesting. He's also learned about even and odd numbers. After only a few Miquon pages, he knows so much more than he did before. This week I plan on getting him some manipulatives (Cuisinaire rods, maybe) that are supposed to go well with this program.

J worked on her new dance solo on Friday and it's coming along well. Then she had group tap while I took W to cub scouts. I used the free hour I had to clean out the car since K volunteered B to pick up 4 of her friends the following morning to take them all horseback riding. He didn't mind at all and even dropped the girls home afterwards. Then he drove K to a birthday party at around 12pm. J was already there, having slept over the girl's house the night before. They both said it was really fun. J, her friend (A), and 2 boys put together a band and performed their original song in front of everyone. I called K at just the right time and I got to hear them! It was pretty amazing for a bunch of 11 and 12 y/os. K and J sang a song together too, later on.

Meanwhile, B took W to see Madagascar 2. Everything worked out really well that day. I stayed home and vegged and everyone else was out of the house, getting out of the workers' way. Yeah, they're still here. They're taking their time with the re-wiring. But that part should only take another couple of days. Then the plaster guy comes and fixes all 50-something holes we have in the walls and ceilings. Ugh it looks so bad. There's dust everywhere and ugly garbage bags framed with painters tape over every hole. Eeeww. It's stressful. The apartment is already "cozy" enough without 3 extra men and all our stuff piled into corners. But I know it's going to be all worth it in the end.

B took the kids out to my mom's for the day today. It's better when the men work without us all walking around. But they ended up cancelling today. So, I got to spend the day by myself, cleaning and catching up on a huge pile of laundry. During the week (while the guys are here), the kids and I go downstairs to B's aunt's apartment to get their academics done. That's been a great idea so far. They are both still loving the AmblesideOnline schedule and are eager to get to it most days. It's been fun for me as well.

Oh, remember how W was getting anxious about CCD class because he wasn't confident about reading? Well the teacher told B today that now W is the first to raise his hand to read aloud. I can't believe it. Once again he faced his fear head-on and overcame it. He decided he wanted a lot of extra reading practice all week to get ready. He's amazing. And J came out of her class with a 112% on the huge test they had today. She spent the last 2 days reading and writing out answers to questions, coming to B and me for help, and researching lots of stuff online. She prepared very well for this test on her own without any nagging or threats. She's certainly come a helluva long way since she was in school. She teems with confidence, self-discipline, and so much determination in everything she does. All 3 kids have sent my mommy pride level through the roof lately. :)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

K at 30 Rock

K was one of 3 children chosen to represent her school at NBC Studios last night to comment on the election as it unfolded. She arrived at 30 Rockefeller Plaza (yes, the same "30 Rock") around 7pm and she said she was treated like a movie star. They were greeted by the reporters, editors, and producers of the show and brought into a large room full of food. In a different room, the 3 kids were seated on couches and asked questions about their favorite candidates. K said it was like being on a talk show. Afterwards the kids were brought outside into the screaming and cheering crowd and got their pictures taken (lots of people in the crowd wanted their picture too). K said it was amazing and such an awesome experience. Thankfully my mom went with her as I had work and B had to stay with W. Mom had a great time, too. At the end, everyone got a car home - even my mom to Long Island! K got home about 11pm. You can see the show HERE. It's the video dated November 5th. K is the one from her school who speaks in 2 quick shots in the first third of the video. The first shot of her is at about 8:10 on the video counter (she's the girl all the way on the right) and again at 7:34 (outside in the crowd where she says, "It's history in the making"). The first photo is the view outside the window of NBC Studios - the ice skating rink had a huge USA on it and flags all around the plaza. The lower photo is inside at NBC Studios.

Meanwhile, J enjoyed watching the election on tv with me. She even grabbed a looseleaf binder and was writing out the results in a chart. She researched how electoral votes work and was just so excited about the whole thing. J is definintely a note-taker. She does it with books she reads, too.

During the day, the kids and I went to go vote. We were in and out of there in about 5 minutes. No long lines in my neighborhood. The people who signed us in were loving the fact that my kids were being involved in the process. I just can't believe how antiquated the machines are, though. But I don't think NY ever had a problem with them. Then I dropped J off at her friend's house and K, W, and I went shopping for an outfit for K for the show that night. K spent the next hour or so brushing up on her presidential knowledge and W and I went to the playground to play handball for an hour. It was a fun day.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Halloween '08

It was such a gorgeous end of the week. On Halloween it was about 60 degrees outside and the kids really enjoyed trick-or-treating. B took W, J, and J's friend around for a little while. In less than an hour everyone's bags were overflowing with candy. W was an evil jester and J was Frankenstein's daughter. J prefers to make her own costumes now, with a couple of bought accessories. W had a cub scouts party early that evening and all of us had another H party to attend that night. We're thinking about going to the big Halloween parade in Greenwich Village next year.

On Saturday, J had dance and spent the rest of the day at a friend's house, K went to a friend's, and W had a birthday party. I worked, B had his 25th high school reunion, and my evening involved collecting all the kids around town from their various activities. I did get to relax a bit at W's party, hanging out there for a couple of hours and having something to eat.

Sunday was B's birthday and we all headed out to my mom's house to celebrate. The workers are still here all day, every day, so getting out of their way was probably very much appreciated. Both my sisters and the kids' cousins were there, we had a great dinner, cake, and just hung out and had fun. We got home after 9pm to see our whole kitchen (dropped) ceiling ripped out - woohoo! They've so far done all the hole-cutting - 3 in every ceiling, more in each wall - and they've been running the cables all week. The kitchen is the last room. Then the "patchers" come. They are going to patch up every wall and ceiling. It's slow-going, but it will be wonderful when it's done.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Renovating

So we've been tied to the house this whole week because workers are here ripping out and replacing all the wiring and fixing up a bunch of stuff. When it's done we will have some new ceilings and walls, new ceiling fans in the dining room and bedrooms, new kitchen lighting, a totally redone stairwell with new walls/carpeting/floor, refinished wood floors, a new circuit breaker upstairs, every room painted, and a bunch of new, safer electrical outlets. I'm so excited. I just can't leave while they're here (they tend to just walk out the front door without locking up). But it seems the kids have been getting more academic work done than usual. I've noticed with W that he really gets the history and science readings. He just loves the battle stories of the Romans, British, Spartans, Persians, etc. Paddle to the Sea is another one he looks forward to. It's a fun geography story that follows the journey of a wooden toy down rivers and lakes from Canada through the US and into the sea. He's mastered cursive writing and was even complimented on it at CCD class last week by his teacher.

I finally got the pictures from the Drawing Center and the Central Park Urban Rangers up on the last post. Click on them to make them larger!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Art & Ecology

We had 2 wonderful field trips this week with the homeschool groups. The first one was at a place called The Drawing Center in Soho. It is a very quaint, odd little art gallery. We were in a room full of pencil drawings made by one of the very first women industrial designers.
Her name was Greta Magnusson Grossman and she was an influential figure in the Southern California design movement of the 1950s and 60s. After the tour and discussions, the kids got their own boards, white paper and tracing paper to create their own "work spaces" (along with rulers, markers, and pencils). The main pieces were drawn on the white paper and then the accessory pieces on the tracing paper (which you can flip up and down).
Then the kids discussed their projects. They enjoyed it. We brought J's friend A along with us, which worked out perfectly as this class was for 4-8y/os and they got to hang with each other. Some of us mom's walked over to The Scholastic Store after the class. Wow. I love stores like this. They have play areas for the kids, all kinds of books, toys, and games, and the staff was friendly, patient, and helpful.

On Friday, W had his monthly Urban Rangers Ecology class again. We got there early and explored Belvedere Castle a bit, taking pictures from the top. The park and the city around it is just gorgeous. The day was beautiful, too. The kids started out discussing more of the local flora and fauna. The focus was mainly on the various trees in the park. We all did a scavenger hunt - we were provided with a big card of different leaves and different teams had to find all of them. We found gingko, sugar maple, black oak, tulip tree, london plane, sweet gum, etc. I don't know who had more fun, the moms or the kids! We walked a bunch of trails and ended up in a field of different trees where the kids played another game. 2 kids were the "hawks" and had to catch the others who were "birds". The park ranger called out names of trees and the birds had to remember which tree was which and run to it, as that one then bacame "base". W was very proud of himself as he was declared the "winner" at the end.

After the class, a few of us hung around and our boys (ages 3-8) ran around in an area called "The Glade". After an hour or so, we hopped back onto the train to get back home in time for W to make it to cub scouts. We couldn't have asked for a better day.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Books

Today W did a lot of cursive writing practice, 3 pages of math, 3 pages of phonics, we read a tale from James Herriot, a "Just So Story", and played word games on a few internet sites I found. Math was story problems and graphing. Phonics was review of long vowels and silent e. The internet sites had spelling quizzes and creating words from blended beginnings and endings. He is determined to increase his reading ability and speed. In CCD he refused to read for the teacher at all because he's self conscious. Today, after our scheduled stuff, he insisted on going to those learning websites. Then he asked if we could go to the big bookstore so he could get some books for him ("on his level"). I will never turn down a request like that! At the bookstore, he picked out about 7 books he wanted. They were the "I Can Read" - types he enjoys so much. Thankfully they were all around $4 each (more like $3.25 with my educator discount!). I also picked up (the real) Peter Pan to read to him and The Iliad/The Odyssey for J. Those stories are somewhere in the schedule and I got a beautiful wrapped hardcover copy of both for $20. Tomorrow we have a trip and I'll be bringing some books for W to read to me while the older kids have their class. He's set to be a "great reader" by next Sunday.

This afternoon, J went to her friend's house to sleep over (I'm picking both of them up in the morning for the trip) and W scootered over to the park with B. W ended up in an impromptu soccer game with another kid there. I lost my camera again. That always seems to happen the week I have some trips planned. Ugh.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Rolling Along

This new year is moving along very nicely. I love autumn. That's when my new year starts. It's so beautiful outside - the leaves are changing color, the air is cool, and the moon has been really pretty lately. The kids have been taking breaks from the AO currculum here and there. They plan on eventually doing 5-days per week with it, but not yet. They like doing 4-days of scheduled academics (copywork, math, readings, workbooks) and the 5th day being for all the extra stuff (like Spanish, artist study, science experiments, dictation, etc). It's weird for all of us having a curriculum to follow, but I think we're adjusting well.

W made a flag and discussed Pennies for Peace at cub scouts. K is getting lots of praise at guitar lessons. Her instructor was very impressed that she memorized the new song they worked on the previous week. J had 3 hours of dance yesterday for new choreography and 4 hours of various dance stuff tonight. Her voice instruction is this afternoon and I can't say enough great things about how she's being coached (I listen by the door each week, lol).

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Rainy Fall

This week went by fast. With K being home for 3 days, we took a break from the schedule. We all got our eyes checked, new glasses, and new contact lenses (the girls and me). I did lots of cleaning. We bought Halloween decorations. The kids painted masks and wall hangings. It was a chilly, rainy week, so there wasn't much outside time. But we did play some indoor games, tended to the pets, watched movies, and honed the kids' culinary skills. W still ended up doing lots of math and reading this week, and J spent time on research (whatever catches her attention at the moment) and updated some of her web pages.

J had about 14 hours of dance this week. Her new dance solo is coming along nicely and she finally chose a song for vocal. Having these several months to practice it with the vocal coach is going to be great for her. W loved his musical theater class this week. There are lots of boys in the class this year, so he's excited about it. He also had a great cub scout meeting the other day. They talked about different leaves, identifying them, naming the parts, and making a project. There was also lots of talk about the camping trip that's coming up. W doesn't stop talking about it. B is also looking forward to it and already has everything they need.

As for me, I'm happy to say I had nothing fear over the big changes made at work. I settled into my new phone queue and my boss was right - I have more than doubled my sales over the last 2 weeks. I can't believe it. And the new money is coming at the right time. I hope it stays like this!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A New Week

I'm still reading as much as I can about the AO curriculum. I love so much about it and it's nice the kids see how great it is, too. What makes it better is how they chose this for themselves. I'm pretty sure there wouldn't be this much enthusiasm if I picked it for them, gave them no choice, and "made" them do this work every day. I read about so many other homeschooling families having such a hard time making their kids do work - the kids are even punished. I don't get it. All that kids need is choice, trust, and support. Then watch what they can do!

J and W had their first day of CCD this morning. Both kids are receiving Sacraments next year. W will be making his First Holy Communion (in May) and J will be doing a year of Confirmation prep, with a few more classes next September, a weekend retreat, and her ceremony next October. W had so much nervous energy about going today. He was a little worried about a new class and new teacher. He was still excited though and went right up to the classroom with a happy "See ya later!". A couple of the schoolkids in his class were crying outside and clinging to their mothers. W came out high fiving old friends, said his teacher is really nice, and that the class was fun. So I think we can put to rest the whole socialization, fitting-in, homeschoolers-won't-know-how-to-act-out-in-the-real-world (hahaha) issues, mmmkay?

K is off from school on Tuesday and Wednesday. I'm so looking forward to that. J has a full week of dance and is already making plans for those "off" days with her schooled friends. W loved cub scouts on Friday. He has so many friends there. They spoke about (and did a project on) the Wright brothers and about their upcoming weekend camping trip. He can't wait for that.

Our beloved Mama hamster passed away the other day. She was W's Christmas present 2 years ago. We had decided to get him a male and bought a cute Spiderman cage and everything. W loved it. It was a Syrian Black Bear hamster and so tame and friendly. 9 days later "he" had 13 babies right before our eyes - the first one was born in my hand (and no she didn't eat it, lol). We raised the babies for about 3 months. We kept 2 babies, gave 5 away to friends, and gave 4 to the pet store (2 didn't make it). Mama had been a wonderful pet and we will miss her.

Mama - January 2007 right after she had her babies

Some of the babies - 13 days old trying some new food

The babies again - exploring the cage, with Mama on the far right keeping watch

Waffles - one of the babies we kept

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Week 4

Week 4 of AmblesideOnline is going great. W, especially, is still really enthusiastic about it. His favorite thing to do is cursive writing. I don't really see much need for it, except to know how to sign your name, but he mastering it like a pro. I figure he sees it the same way J saw calligraphy a few years ago. It's fun and just looks cool. J's days are pretty busy, so she's fallen behind a little on the weekly schedules - and she's sleeping over a friend's house tonight, so tomorrow morning's academics are out. I think she's doing wonderfully. She enjoys the readings and has even decided to read some on her own. In the early years of AO the kids are read to and by the age of like 10 or so, they should start doing some of the scheduled readings on their own. Since we just started AO, she preferred that we read together. But it hasn't taken long for her to start taking over. She even takes notes (I swear, I had nothing to do with it!), and loves narrating back to me. Eventually she'll do written narrations instead - again, AO suggests around age 10, and she's slowly getting closer to that as well.

We had our homeschool group's geography club today. The focus was on Hawaii and the kids presentations were fabulous. Every family brought in a native dish - that's my favorite part. J spoke about Hawaiian jewelry and W opted out of this one. He's getting a bit self-conscious about his reading speed and he had a tickle-cough all day. That was enough for him to not want to do his report on Hawaiian instruments. So afterwards, W and I checked out about 10 library books and J spent the day at her friend's house. As for me, work is still good. Big changes have been made this week and most of my normal duties have been outsourced. So what I did for about 15% of the time for the last 2 1/2 years has been changed now to 100%. I feel rusty with it somewhat, but I'm always up for a challenge. My boss says I should make the same if not more money with this change, so I'm ok with it so far.

Here's a not-surprising news article.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Ranger and a Scout


















Today W became an Urban Ranger at Central Park. We headed into Manhattan for the first of a series of fantastic ecology classes with the homeschool group. We met at Belvedere Castle - which was breathtakingly beautiful - right in the middle of the park. Two park rangers brought the kids around through hidden paths and walkways pointing things out and talking about the plants, trees, and birds in in the park. The kids started out playing a game where they formed a web out of thick string, showing how different things in nature interconnect with each other. Then onto lots of walking and discussing. After 90 minutes the kids all got ranger badges, pencils, stickers, and info sheet, and a ruler. W had lots of friends there and ran around playing with everyone before we left. Awesome class, and we get to do one every month!

We got back to Queens just in time to get J to her tap class/solo lesson. After buying her some Vitamin Water, W and I drove a few blocks away to his first Cub Scout meeting of the season. He's in an awesome pack. The pack leader is a friend of mine from 12 years ago and she's great with them. They also have tons of trips already planned - the first camping trip is set for next month. The parents got to hang out and watch the meeting today since it was the first one and there were lots of new kids. I really do love it. They say the Pledge of Allegiance, follow gentle but important rules, work as a team, do crafts, make friends, go on trips, march in parades, serve the community, earn badges, get treated with total respect, and best of all, W thinks it's great. It incorporates everything that I feel was beneficial at school (and there truly weren't very many things I found beneficial at school) in a fun hour each week.

J slept over her friend's house, K went to a local fair, and W and I played The Allowance Game twice. He also played a bunch of reading games on the computer. It was a beautiful day today.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Flyin' High!

















This morning we went on an amazing trip to JFK airport. All of us in the homeschool group met up near the departure area, got "real" boarding passes, snail shell leis, and boarded a 777. The kids got to ask the Captain and the plane mechanic questions before heading into the cockpit. We were told all about how the plane works, what buttons and screens mean what, and the kids sat in the Captain's seat. We then went back to the waiting area where the staff blew up balloons for the kids, who ran around playing for about 30 minutes. Then it was time to visit the control tower. What a cool place that is. The kids asked lots of questions and got to check out some of the computers. Then after we all went for lunch (with vouchers for the food court!) we went up to another room where the kids (and parents) got goodie bags.

We just so happened to be the first "school" group to visit the airline since 9/11/01 and they staff all made a big deal out of it. We were told this was very special and would probably get national exposure. Not sure what that means, but there was a photographer with us. All the kids on the tour were fascinated by everything. I definitely had a great time.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hershey Park '08

We drove out to Hershey Park Yesterday. We've been holding onto tickets most of the summer and finally got the opportunity to go. It was fun as always, but very hot. I think it was like 92 degrees - which was surprising after it was in the 70s all last week. The kids and I still went on all the big coasters. I think we just scoured the park map for anything labelled "aggressive thrill ride". J is finally tall enough for everything, and W has made it to Hershey Bar status, giving him access to a bunch of the bigger coasters. I did the Comet and Sidewinder with all 3 kids, the Stormrunner and Great Bear with K and J, and the Fahrenheit with just K. Then I'd pretty much had it, lol. The kids also hit the Tidal Force flume ride for a last soaking before we left. B was happy enough just watching. He's a water park guy and Hershey closed that section right after Labor Day. We also did the Zoo America, but I found that a baby squirrel peeping out of a tree hole on the way up to the zoo was more interesting. We ate kettle corn, won a few prizes, and stayed over 6 hours.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Week 2

The kids are still enjoying the new schedule. Yesterday W did some handwriting practice, math workbook, phonics workbook, and we read from the Burgess Bird Book, Paddle to the Sea, and Aesop. He loves it all. It's great seeing so much enthusiasm from him.

We haven't done much yet with foreign language, extra reading, or nature study. I think we have to build up to those. Although, last week W got a pet lizard (a green anole) and observing it and feeding it live crickets is pretty fascinating. We now have 4 goldfish (3 comets and a black moor), 3 African Dwarf frogs, 2 hamsters, 2 hermit crabs, and a lizard. That's more than enough nature for me.

J started with math and then we did readings together about the 19th Amendment, Natural Law, and Einstein. We also started reading A Midsummer Night's Dream. I couldn't stand Shakespeare in school. It was dissected to death and all the enjoyment was sucked away. J happens to be very into it. I'm liking it a lot now as well. I "get" it now.

Basketball registration is this weekend. Cub Scouts starts next week, too. W and K will both take Musical Theater with J at the dance studio, and K starts private guitar lessons this weekend. J's dance classes are in full swing now and she's assistant-teaching one of the younger classes again as well. So much great stuff happening around here.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Determination

This morning we went to archery. J felt like trying it, too, this time and fell in love with it. After 3 hours, she could have stayed another 3 hours. She was popping the balloons and hitting the bullseye on almost every shot. The photo on the left was taken by the guy running the place. She did very well and he told me he knew J was a dancer from the way she carries herself, that she has so much poise, is really focused, and takes direction very well. I wasn't shocked at that, since I know J takes very quickly, easily, and usually incredibly well to knew endeavors, but I had to laugh a little on the inside. My J, who not so long ago was singled out to be put on medication for being too hyper and too unfocused in school. She was told she "wasn't a good fit" for the full-time/self-contained gifted program she'd been in over a year (called "The Academy for the Intellectually Gifted" - a name that still makes me rofl). She was very extroverted and popular (and bored and uninterested) in the classes and that clashed with the kind of children the teachers were used to in that program. I'm just glad she got out when she did. What I think is important is that J learned a lot from her school experience and it only cemented her decision to homeschool even more. Her education is now what she needs it to be: hands-on, experiential, and in context. And I believe this is the reason she can now approach anything new with drive, determination, and confidence. I have no doubts that she'll continue to succeed at anything she wants to.

On Sunday, we spent the early part of the day at a local street fair. J's studio performed about 12 numbers to a nice-sized crowd. It was hot, but everyone had fun. J did her dance solo, sang a song, and was in a few group numbers. Then they got to do the whole set over again a couple of hours later! This week also starts her new class season. 1.5 hours of ballet was slotted for Monday evening and the kids looked beautiful. I was off of work yesterday for my birthday, so I got to watch the class a bit, but I probably won't get to do that again for a while. I'm really looking forward to seeing all the new choreography for this season.

Cartoon

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Fourth Day

Ok, so we ditched the schedule today and went to the Hall of Science! It was great. No school trips (well, only 1 high school class was there), no camps, and practically the whole place to ourselves. The best thing about that is that we get our own personal "explainers" who help you perform the experiments and talk about what's happening and why. It's funny how we always find something new every time we go there. The kids plugged in a route for a Mars rover and watched it move around on the "Mars landscape".
We visited the magic exhibit again, too. A lot of focus today was on molecules and J practiced writing out the molecular formulas of different common things. W copied examples of ready-made molecules using plastic balls and sticks. The sports area was a hit as usual, and they particularly enjoyed the microbes area this time. W sat in with the high schoolers on a demo called "The Science of Sports". He listened very intently, answered a bunch of questions (correctly!), and participated when asked. Also, we found out that the biochemistry lab is temporarily closing due to lack of funding. I'm so writing a letter about that.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Third Day

W and I got so much done in an hour-an-a-half this morning. He was ready by 8:45am ("Mom, can we start now??"). I, on the other hand, wasn't ready til 9, lol. He started with script writing again. Today we added the letters l and e and then made words using all the letters we learned so far. He used script in the phonics workbook, too. He didn't learn all the letters he needed yet, so he asked me to just show him what k looked like, as well as w, h, d, s, r, and n. It was a quick once over, but he is determined. This is a page of today's phonics (a review). I think he's doing a great job with cursive after only 3 days. When he starts copywork next week, he plans on doing it all in script. So, after that we read from Fifty Famous Stories Retold, and Parables from Nature. Then a math page. He asked to do more math later on when J was doing hers.

So far, so good. The kids are really enjoying the structured mornings. Of course this can change any day now, lol. I wonder if it's just the first week newness of it all. We'll see.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

...And the Second

We're starting to find a groove. J sleeps later than W, so W and I started on his scheduled stuff earlier than usual. He always would wait to "do work" with J, but I think he realized today that it's fun having all the academic attention on himself for an hour. He started with a new Spectrum phonics workbook and then onto cursive writing. He caught on with this so quickly, I cannot believe it. His print writing is really nice and now after just 2 days, and having learned 5 letters, his script is just as neat and so well done. He's learned c, a, b, t, and i. He's writing words like "bat" and "cab" and "bit" on regular wide-ruled notebook paper. And he could keep going for hours. We read a history story, an Aesop fable, another Stevenson poem, and more Paddle to the Sea. He can't wait to narrate back what he remembers from the stories. And he did 3 math pages.

J started with a lesson in math. She does about 1 whole TT lesson each day. We read some School of the Woods, a book on Einstein and his theory of relativity, and some Age of Fable. She loves this last one. It was a story based on The Iliad about Ulysses (Odysseus) and his men coming to the island with the Cyclopses. She is so loving these stories.

What's odd is that it doesn't feel like "doing work". It's relaxing together on the couch over tea and toast, laughing and learning and loving our time together. Workbooks and handwriting are just different types of fun games. Readalouds are serene, bonding, and captivating. W must have said "this is so cool" at least 3 times -- about his math. The books go back in the drawer right before lunchtime and we spend the afternoon doing art projects, nature walks, science centers, vocal/dance lessons, playground, supermarket, library, whatever. I love life.

First Day

The AmblesideOnline curriculum is so far a big hit. J and W loved the readings. No, I mean, LOVED them. We started with math. J did Teaching Textbooks and W did a new Spectrum workbook. While J continued with math, W and I went over cursive handwriting together. He did great - a lot better than I expected. W and I read Paddle to the Sea, with J listening in. She gets as interested in W's stories as much as her own. J and I read a chapter of The Story of Mankind and about David Livingstone. W's readings continued with a poem from A Child's Garden of Verses and an Aesop's Fable. J's continued with some Robert Frost poetry and the first chapter of The Hobbit. Then both kids sat by the computer with me and we learned about Sandro Botticelli and analyzed one of his paintings. The whole thing took about 2 1/2 hours. I have to say, it was fun, interesting, and done so quickly. I enjoyed it a lot, myself. Now, let's see how long all this love lasts. ;)

After lunch, J had a vocal lesson. She's performing at a local street fair on Sunday and was asked to sing. The vocal coach went over her old song with her, fine-tuning any perceived weak spots. This coach is amazing. She's so thorough and has such a great ear. We lucked out finding her. The bulk of the lessons will be focused on J's new competition vocal selection (which hasn't yet been selected, lol). They are trying out different songs and styles. J will know when it's the right one.

K's first day of 10th grade was really good. She's happy with (almost) all of her teachers and the classes look fun. The entire English term is called "Newspaper" and will be run like they all work for one. She's excited about all the subjects, actually, and says she feels like acing everything this year. I love that her school is incredibly small (for NYC), has a uniform/dress code, and is very progressive as far as mission and overall attitude towards learning.

First day done.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Archery

W gave archery a shot today and really enjoyed it. There were a bunch of boys his age there and he made some new friends (and loved seeing his old friends). The kids each got their own targets and were fitted with arm bands, clipped on a big cylinder of arrows, and learned how to use the huge bow. W started out shaky, but within 30 minutes he was shooting straight, very near the bullseye. The instructor pinned a balloon to each target and W hit it every time. It was so cool to see the quick progression from not being able to hit even the wall around the target to popping the balloon in the middle on the first attempt. So we signed up for the fall season!

He decided that for now he'd like to put football on hold for a while. He's been getting knocked around pretty hard and cannot stand the intense drills. It probably would have been fine once a week, but once they started this 4-days-a-week schedule (Saturdays and Sundays at 8am!), he just lost his drive for it. I don't blame him. I mean, he loves the actual games, but since those are only once a week, it doesn't make the rest worth it to him. Maybe another time. I'm relieved. Although I never said anything to W, I was very nervous watching all these 6-8 y/os getting the wind knocked out of them 25 times in 2 hours.

Cub Scouts and CCD starts up again next month, too. J is all set to start her new solo choreography, group technique, and 12 weeks of vocal training within the next few weeks. K is looking forward to her sophomore year of high school. She needs a few more supplies, a haircut, an eye exam, uniform clothes, and lots of other clothes before school begins next week. Ugh, nothing like waiting til the last minute.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

NY Homeschool Paperwork - Easier Than You Think!

All our homeschool paperwork was received and is in compliance. Now I sit back and wait for the kids' Metrocards to arrive in the mail. I sent it regular mail - I refuse to spend extra money on certified or receipt-requested - and they did receive it (which somehow surprised me, lol). I sent the kids' 2008-2009 LOIs in with the 2007-2008 4th quarterlies and annual assessments, but they informed me they didn't have them. I felt like "here we go again" with missing paperwork, but I spoke with Mr. Director of Homeschooling and we straightened everything out. I have to say, for many reasons, I do like him the best so far.

Our homeschool correspondence is still the same exact stuff we sent in 2005. There are links to it in the sidebar. Our letter of intent is comprised of 2 sentences and is in a business-letter format. The 1-page IHIP is a copy-and-paste from the worldbook.com course of study, with an extra paragraph I created for a little more detail. The IHIP takes about 7 minutes to update the copy-and-paste to the next grade and change some dates. Because there is so much detail in our IHIP, our quarterly reports can be pretty minimal. Ours contains about 4 sentences explaining that we're moving along fine. I send the same exact quarterly 4x a year with a slight date change on each. Each quarterly takes about 1 minute to update. Our annual assessment is very similar to our quarterlies. I add several sentences describing some the year's highlights to make it more narrative-ish. This takes about 5 minutes (unless you get stuck thinking about which highlights you want to include, lol). On a testing year, I'll add another sentence to the annual assessment stating my child took so-and-so test on such-and-such date and enclose a copy of the result page. I used to just put a sentence that she scored above the 33rd %ile, but the NYC district is now asking for more. Most of my paperwork was created on the advice and suggestions of the amazing homeschoolers at NY-HEN. I love that group and would encourage all new homeschoolers to join.

This year J will be in 7th grade, so it's a testing year for her. We order the CAT-E from the link in the sidebar. It's about $25. The CAT-E goes up to 12th grade. Many homeschoolers like to use the PASS test. The highest grade for this one is 8th grade (link to ordering it is in the sidebar). We do use a certified teacher to administer the test - but I know some NY districts are okay with parents administering it themselves. Once J finishes the test, we send it back to the testing company and we get her scores within 2 weeks. It's very easy.

I will never understand why some NY homeschoolers choose to send pages and pages of information that pretty much will go unread. The districts honestly do not care. All they want to do is check off paperwork that's in compliance. You're honestly not impressing anyone with a description of all the cool stuff you did or plan to do. Really. For myself, I need everything to be simple, minimal, and streamlined. Our total homeschool correspondence takes less than 20 minutes to write up and costs about $3 in postage to mail PER YEAR. And it's always been in compliance. We're in our 4th year of paperwork now. No one should be afraid of it, no matter how many big, scary words "Section 100.10 of the Regulations of the New York State Commissioner of Education" uses, lol.

Here's to a wonderful new homeschool year!!!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Jonas Mania

Mom dropped the girls off at home around 2ish. It was the first time she'd been here since we switched the apartment around. The girls couldn't wait to show her their new bedrooms. Next week we're having the entire bathroom ripped out and redone. I just hope everything is completed by the 2nd week of September.

So, as soon as J got home, she started decorating a t-shirt with everything Jonas Brothers. She had a bunch of Sharpie markers and went to town. I dropped her off at S's house at 4:30 and they left for the concert around 6. The JB concert was at Madison Square Garden and the kids had center seats (far away, but still center, lol). I gave J the camera and she took tons of pictures. She said it was incredible. A guy came out at the beginning telling the crowd to get excited because they were going to be part of the 3-D movie. So I guess the JBs are doing something like Hannah Montana did with the movie. I'm wondering: Do they only use one concert's footage for the movie or snippets of all their concerts? Anyway, the girls were on their feet dancing and screaming the whole time. S's dad picked them up in the city and drove J home around 11:30pm.

And to top off all this Jonas Mania, K and J went to the set of Regis and Kelly this morning to watch the Jonas Brothers do their sound check. The girls were up at 5:30am, got dressed, and were out the door by 6:15. B took them in on the train and they got there early. B's friend (who works there) met them outside the building and got them past the hundreds of lined-up people. In the studio, they were brought right to the front row! B's friend gave J a guitar pick that Nick dropped backstage. Then one woman selected a few people to move even closer - and one of them was K!

It was awesome, they said. They watched them rehearse 3 songs. All 3 guys made eye contact with, smiled at, and waved to the girls. They were literally 4 feet away from them. They left right after that. I picked the girls up at the train station and B got back on and went to work.

Click on pics to enlarge.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

W's scrimmage game was so much fun to watch today. The team they played against are in a totally different NY league, so they won't be playing any "real" games together. This other team had mostly 8-9 y/os so they were bigger and more experienced. W's team got in a few good tackles, though. Each team got to do 10 plays per quarter. I think W's team learned a lot today about teamwork and game rules. I still think it looks so rough and B and I both keep reminding W that it's ok if he feels it's not the right thing for him. We just keep taking it day to day and we'll see what happens. W has 2 practices and 2 more scrimmages this week. I'm tired just thinking about that for him.

J knocked out her dance essay in about 2 hours. I knew she would.

And J turned 12 yesterday! B took her into Manhattan on Friday for some shopping and some lunch. We spend Saturday at my moms, went to dinner, and came back for cake. We stayed over and B, W, and I left early this morning for W's game. The girls stayed out there, went to the beach, and did a bit of shopping (of course).

I got a few more books at Borders yesterday: The Hobbit, Island of the Blue Dolphin, A Cricket in Times Square, the new Clique book, Nate the Great, and the Complete Works of Shakespeare (34 plays and a bunch of sonnets and poems). I only spent $37. I love the educator discounts! I want to start a new readaloud this week and finish it before we begin the AO stuff. W's been doing a new (really fun) reading/phonics workbook the past few days and J's been reading more, too. Now that she has her own room, she has more privacy and peace. She has a high loft bed and underneath will be a cute futon/couch where she can read and relax. It's being delivered this week! K loves the look so much, that she decided she wants a similar setup in her room. Apartment living demands creativity and good use of space. I'm getting pretty good at it, lol!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Single-Word MeMe

1. Where is your cell phone? Pocketbook
2. Your significant other? Funny
3. Your hair? Frizzball
4. Your mother? Generous
5. Your father? Grouchy
6. Your favorite thing? Blankets
7. Your dream last night? Trees
8. Your favorite drink? Cola
9. Your dream/goal? Success
10. The room you’re in? Alcove
11. Your church? Catholic
12. Your fear? Health
13. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Debtless
14. Where were you last night? Work
15. What you’re not? Wallflower
16. Muffins? Banana
17. One of your wish list items? Kitchen
18. Where you grew up? Gotham :)
19. The last thing you did? Drive
20. What are you wearing? Jammies
21. Your TV? Large
22. Your pets? Boring
23. Your computer? Awesome
24. Your life? Rich
25. Your mood? Peaceful
26. Missing someone? Grandparents
27. Your car? Crapola
28. Something you’re not wearing? Bra ;)
29. Favorite store? Borders
30. Your summer? Busy!
31. Like(love) someone? Many
32. Your favorite color? Green
33. Last time you laughed? Today
34. Last time you cried? Today
35. Who will repost this? Friends

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

J went to the Knitting Factory in Tribeca tonight with her friend S (and S's mom) to see a band called "Honor Society" . Never heard of them, myself, but the girls are into obscure boy bands lately, so why not. They got up close to the stage and had a fantastic time. During one of the songs, S's mom happened to look up - the Knitting Factory is a smallish place and has a few balconies (B's band played there earlier this year and he explained the place's layout) - and 5 feet away, on the first balcony was another boy band. These guys are a certain trio of brothers named Nick, Joe, and Kevin. Yep, the Jonas Brothers were in the same club as my kid. S and J made immediate eye contact with them and were thrilled that Kevin smiled and waved to them. So this now means that Kevin is the nice one and his brothers...not so much. It probably won't matter next week when the girls are at their concert at Madison Square Garden next week.

Speaking of B's band, they're still NYC regulars. They just had a gig Friday night in Greenwich Village. He loves it, it's cool, and they make some bucks. Over the years they've also played at Desmond’s, Kenny’s Castaways, Village Underground, Continental, Hogs & Heifers, Otto’s Shrunken Head, Lit Lounge, Tribeca Rock Club, Don Hill’s, Snitch, Le Bar Bat, Ace of Clubs (Acme Underground), and tons of others. They crank out demos and are always writing new songs. They've even been on the radio a few times. Not bad for what basically amounts to a hobby - and an inexpensive one at that! None of the band members really have any grand ambitions to "make it big". They all, thankfully, have pretty nice day jobs. And besides, I keep telling B that all the real money and fame is with children's music! He's considering it, lol.

J still hasn't started her essay for dance. It's due tomorrow. I think she's like me - prefers to wait until the very last minute and then does a pretty good job. I figure, why do it early? I would constantly second guess myself and revise it too many times. The first draft is always the one you really mean, anyway. :P

W had football practice again tonight. Now he's up to 3x a week. I know he loves it, but the roughness is kinda worrying me. I mean, he's a tough kid, and certainly holds his own, but still. I think we'll just take this week by week and see what happens. He's on the front offensive line during every practice. That's probably going to be his place for the season. Not sure exactly what that entails (not a football person), but I do know he runs into the other players a lot. B will fill me in on the rest of the rules before Sunday's game so I know what exactly I'm rooting for. LOL.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

W and I went to the Queens Botanical Garden yesterday. I haven't been there since a 5th grade school trip. It was nice and peaceful with pretty flowers and trees. I liked how all the different gardens had the plant species labeled so you knew what you were looking at. W thought it was ok. He liked reading the signs, learning about the gardens, and coming up with his own theories on why things were the way they were. His favorite part was the "bee garden" where lots of wooden bee "houses" were and we could see the bees going in and out. He also loved the visitor's building where he could look through pamphlets and check out the different objects and books for sale.

Football is going well. Next week, the team has their first scrimmage game with another team a few towns over. They'll be going together by bus and all the parents will follow and meet them there. W is really excited about it. He's starting to really love football now. He was having some fear issues with a drill called "nutcrackers", where two boys just run into each other full-force - the kid with the ball is supposed to get past the other without getting tackled (or fumbling the ball). One big kid terrified W the most the last few weeks. W would get tackled right away, getting the wind knocked out of him a bit and asking to please not get paired up with him again. But yesterday W went right up to the coach and asked if he could try once again to go against that kid because he needed to do this to get over his fear. He did it, and did it well without fear and was so proud of himself. He admitted his fear, faced it head-on (literally!), and proved to himself he can do this. That took a helluva lot of guts, imo. I'm so proud of him. Here's W during a defense drill (at the beginning he's on the left) video

J had a fun week at dance, having to choreograph a number with 2 friends and perform in front of the parent audience. They wore purple, white, and black, and I know they put their hearts into it. I had work, but B went and said it was great. The new season's choreography starts next week and they're having a pizza party on Friday. She still hasn't started her essay, but I'm like that, too. I do my best work when it's last-minute. Not sure why that is, lol.

Another thing I've come to realize is that I function best with schedules and lists. Deep down I knew that, but when we embraced unschooling, I felt I should learn how to be more spontaneous and creative. I lived without my daily lists for a while - only making the occasional shopping, Christmas gift, or cleaning list. But now, ever since AmblesideOnline has become a part of our lives, I am starting to make list after list and schedule after schedule and I'm LOVING it. I made a daily AO subject schedule. I wrote down the weekly schedule. I have a list of their books. I have an extra-curricular calendar list. And I've stated making daily to-do lists for myself again that I cannot believe I lived without for a few years. Everything's on my daily list - and then I check things off as I do them. I've become a total list/schedule junkie again. All I needed was that little taste...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Summer is a weird place for us. We just kind of live our lives without much rhyme or reason to it, seeing where the days end up taking us. My lack of frequent blog posts are just another part of how summer affects me. We're all out of the house pretty often, doing stuff that we love, and that you've mostly heard before. J is dancing. W is footballing. K is teenaging. B and I are working.

My get-up-and-go bug usually winds down at the beginning of summer and picks up again in September. We're still doing a lot, though.

W's football practices are at twice a week now. He's fully padded and helmeted up (today he'll start wearing his padded pants - and other little boy accouterments that go with it) and slamming full-force into the other kids, loudly encouraged to "hit 'em hard" by the coaches (and the macho parents). He loves it, but sometimes looks at me like, "he wants us to do WHAT?". He had a birthday party yesterday at a nearby sports complex and has been at the playground most days.

J's second summer dance session ends this coming Thursday and she gets a week off. Then she starts on the new season's choreography on August 4th. That will be for 2 weeks and there's another break til September (I think). She's been hanging out with her friend (S) almost everyday, swimming in S's grandma's big pool, and still giggling and gabbing about V-Factory.

K's been loving summer so far. She spent 4 days at my mom's - going to beach every day, shopping, and living the high-life, lol. She's got a new boyfriend and has been spending a lot of time with him. B and I both met him and he seems like a great kid. He and his parents have driven to our house a few times to pick up K and we were very glad to meet them. His mom is a school principal, so yeah, she's home when the kids are there and is well on top of where they are and who they're with when they go out (I like that, since I'm the same way, lol). K is happy and talks about him nonstop. She's being very mature and I love that she tells me all about him. I'm ok with this. No really, I am. I mean it, I really am. Sigh.

J and W decided they want to wait til September to start the AO curriculum. I think it's because K's home. But that's fine. We try and squeeze in a few readalouds here and there. W has been into puzzle books lately and sits quietly doing several pages out of one every day. J's dance studio has their essay contest up and running. The winner gets a month free tuition. 2nd place gets $100. J said the topic is perfect for her and will be getting started this week (it's due Aug 6th). 3 years ago she won one of the prizes for her essay. It was the same year we started homeschooling. And her teachers always criticized her writing. The contest is judged by a third party of folks who do not know the kids, and J did wonderfully. That sure cemented our belief that homeschooling was the best thing for her.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Arthur Ashe Stadium

J performed today at Arthur Ashe Stadium for the NY Liberty women's basketball game "Outdoor Classic". They say it's an historic event since it's the very first regular season outdoor pro basketball game ever. I worked an early shift (11-3), got home at 3:20 and got J's makeup and hair done. She had a 5pm call so we left at around 4:15 and picked up her friend (S) on the way. It's nice that the stadium is only 10 minutes away, lol. J met up with the dance group and they were escorted into something like a "green room" - a big area where they wait til it's their turn to go on. The rest of us got to wander around the stadium area where they were having this big "fan fest" with music, games, prizes, and lots of stuff for kids. W got in on this basketball shoot-off game. He was the youngest player out of 16 players - 8 lined up on each side taking turns shooting baskets. Out of 7 tries, W scored 4 baskets. He was high-fiving everyone as he finished his turn each time. His team won 3 in a row. His prize was getting to go over to David Lee of the NY Knicks and get a t-shirt signed. Then he went over to this big inflatable slide while S and I had a blast at the Radio Disney booth. We were answering a bunch of Disney Channel questions and walked away with some prizes.

We went in at 6:30 - right to our luxury box. Again, I highly recommend these. It was beautiful - air conditioned, packed with food and drinks (and beer!), and had it's own bathroom. It led to an outdoor balcony with tables and seats where we had a perfect view of all the action. J's group was finally introduced and they were great! All 4 of the studio dance teams performed. It was so awesome to watch them dance right on the court. (It's still awesome even though J's danced at many major venues - Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, Izod Stadium for the NJ Nets, Six Flags, etc). At the peak of the Liberty game, there were 23,000 people in the stands. Probably around 7,000 were there to watch J's pre-game performance - pretty cool. After their performance, one of the Liberty staff members escorted each kid right to their seats! That cleared up any worry about trying to figure out where to meet her after her dance. I love that they did that.

So it turned out that 2 bands were performing there as well - V Factory and Menudo. The girls were so excited. Then as luck would have it, both bands happened to be 3 luxury boxes down from us. They were on their balcony, so I grabbed the girls and we all ran over to them! They were really happy we came over (I don't think anyone else saw them there, lol) and several members of V Factory were talking with the girls and we got some pictures with them. One of them (Nicky) told J he saw her dancing earlier and she was really good. J just about died right there. Nicky got a couple of band photos for the girls and had the rest of the guys sign them.

Right next to them, Menudo was just sitting there and of course the girls went over to them and were like, HI! They were all so nice and chatted with them a bit. I cannot tell you how excited the girls were with all this. S has posters of both V Factory and Menudo on her wall, so she's a huge fan. I actually thought Menudo broke up in the 80s and I've never heard of the other band til like 2 days ago, lol. After the Liberty game (they lost) the girls ran down to courtside. V Factory came out and sang another 2 songs, waving at the girls when they were done and walking off the court. Then Menudo came out and sang like 3 songs. As they walked off the court, the girls were yelling and waving and they waved back and shot them a peace-sign or 2. It was funny that most of the audience left early (I guess they were just there to see the game) so the girls got to get up real close.

As the crowd was shuffling out of the stadium, the girls were getting pictures with each member of V Factory. W was happy to be the cameraman as one by one each band member put his arms around the girls for a picture. Talk about pure preteen heaven! We left right after that and the girls giggled and talked about it the whole ride home. S couldn't wait to call her mom and tell her how amazing this night was. J has been hanging out with S a lot over the last 2 weeks - they've been great friends since they were 2 or 3 and go to CCD together, but haven't really hung out regularly like they do now. I love S and her family and I'm thrilled they're (we're) such good friends after so many years. I didn't want to put S's face in any blog pictures so I uploaded a set I made with her cropped out. But every pic is originally with both girls - that J will cherish forever. J and S are going to the Jonas Brothers concert together, too, next month. Now that band happens to be J's favorite in the world and I know she'll be talking about that one for a long time!