Sunday, March 30, 2008

We just heard that in the overall Junior category J TIED FOR 2ND PLACE!! And 3 of her teammates placed 5th, 3rd, and one tied with her for 2nd. This is out of all 8-12 year-olds doing all types of dance. It's so exciting when our studio is one of the highest scoring there. We only brought 11 kids from the studio (out of about 35 of us altogether). Most other studios average about 50-150 on their competition team and there are usually anywhere from 10-25 studios at each competition. The scoring was pretty tough at this one - we got her scores yesterday. For her 3 solos, with 3 judges scoring on a scale of 1-10 in 10 categories on everything from choreography to strength to emotional commitment, J got 22 10s, 65 9s, and 3 8s. She is so proud of herself and can't wait til next week.

Sooooo, today we went to the CIRCUS! Ringling Bros. comes to Madison Square Garden every spring. We haven't gone in 5 years. I love it because B gets us luxury skybox seats - which, if you haven't experienced that yet, I highly recommend. I decided to drive there - which took all of 10 minutes, but I should have remembered that a few years ago I swore I'd never drive in Manhattan ever again. The packed garage charged us $45 to park (we could have taken the train for $20) and getting back to the 59th St Bridge (the only one back to Queens without a fee) took forever.

But it was great anyway. We made it there early enough for the pre-show, where you can go out onto the arena floor and see some stars of the show do their thing. We got some cool pictures and some clown noses. 3 escalators and 1 elevator later, we were at our skybox and it was packed with food and drinks - and came with a beautiful private bathroom. It's like a hotel room. The kids sat up by the viewing window and B and I sat at on stools at the high table right next to the food, lol. More food was brought twice while we were there. The fridge was fully stocked with beer (but none of us felt like that at 11am). Several other families joined us (the room holds like 15 people). Thankfully we didn't have to spend any money there (just the ripoff garage people). The kids didn't even ask for a souvenir - wow. Here are some pics from today:

Out the car window on 34th Street

Outside the Garden

Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus

At the Pre-Show

Girl on Ring (the kids have this at circus class!)

Clown Noses

The Skybox

The Circus

Saturday, March 29, 2008

We just got home from a great dance competition in NJ. J did her first vocal solo of the season and her 2 dance solos. Our studio didn't do groups for this one. The 3 highest scores to get were: High-Silver, Gold, and High Gold. J got Gold for all 3 of her solos! Our studio took just about all the overall high scores tonight. In one age group (seniors) 3 of our numbers took 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place! It was pretty cool. The studio owner said J gets stronger every time she performs and now that she has technique and personality taken care of, all she has to work on is hitting the jumps with a little more power.

Next week we have a 3-day comp and then another the week after. J will be rehearsing every day this week. She was there every day last week, too, and the first thing she says this morning is that she can't wait to start dancing today.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

We went to the really big Toys R Us in Times Square today. The kids got some gift cards on Easter and wanted to spend them, so I figured why not just go all out. One train and 15 minutes later we were in the store and WOW was it cool. The funny thing about living in NYC is that you never really think too much about visiting all those tourist traps - you think you'll just get to it one day. But since we've been homeschooling, I have this need to see everything with the kids that I've never gotten to see my whole life living here. After purchasing a Lego thingy, W decided his last $8 would be to treat himself and his sister to the really big ferris wheel inside the store. I took a ton of pictures of them in front of the guy in the Geoffrey costume, the really big animatronic T-Rex, the Candyland pieces, the Lego creations, inside the Barbie Dreamhouse, and of course, on the ferris wheel. We also walked a few blocks up to the big Build-A-Bear store on 5th Avenue. W got a black teddy bear he named Spike (along with awesome Harley Davidson leather jacket) and J got a yellow duck she named Jay Jay. :)


Sunday, March 23, 2008

HaPpY EaStEr !!! We just got home from a day at BIL's for a great Easter dinner. It was so nice to see the extended inlaws and their kids. Last night we decorated eggs and this morning the kids woke up to find all of them hidden around the house. Then they search for their Easter baskets. That's part of our Easter tradition and the kids love it. Then I make sure they share their candy with me, lol. Hey, it's one of the 3x a year I can eat a ton of chocolate and not feel guilty about it (the other 2 being Halloween and Valentines Day).

The week went quickly. J had dance rehearsals almost every day. We did another dance fundraiser, too. She's been practicing her vocal solo - and from what I hear, did very well at the studio. She'll be practicing it all week for the Friday competition. Thankfully this one is just the one day and we can drive home that night (from NJ).

The kids and I made up a fun schedule for the week, incorporating all the major subjects with lots of arts and crafts. They seem excited about it. We'll see how it goes. I've been reading a lot more Charlotte Mason books and websites. That's the method they gravitate towards, so I'm trying to find out as much as I can about it. I'm always finding a new activity for us to try that I know they'd love. I'm glad they're having fun with it all. We'll finally be making a wall timeline and do a nature walk since the weather is nicer now.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

On Saturday W had a basketball game! It was the last day of the clinic and the 16 kids played each other. W's team was blue and the other team was yellow. W had lucky number 7 on the back of his shirt. The scoreboard was lit up bright showing the Home and Away teams scores and counting down the seconds. It was so exciting! W scored the only basket for his team which was very cool. He also scored once in the wrong basket and tended to steal the ball from his own team members, but hey, I still think he's a natural at this. Watching a bunch of 7 year old boys play basketball is truly entertaining. The girls team went before them and I can't tell you how different that team is. The girls listen, they go right to their positions, they sit nicely on the sidelines, they cheer in unison. The boys, on the other hand, were chasing each other around before the game, tackling each other, wrestling the ball out of each others hands, going in all different directions on the court, and totally loving every second of it all. Ah, childhood.

The kids had CCD on Sunday. W did a little report on St. Francis, along with an awesome picture he drew and got an "A+ Great Job!" on it. He was very excited about that. He enjoyed doing the project and mentioned how much writing he's getting done, lol. We drove out to visit my mom for antoher birthday celebration for W. I think it was his 4th one. My sisters, nephew and niece were there, too. W's cousin is 7, too and I love that they get along great.

Yesterday morning J's copywork was a section of The Charge of the Light Brigade (Tennyson) and then we spent about an hour on a new vocabulary book. She loved it. It's all about understanding the meanings of new word by using context clues. They really set it all up in a fun way. We decided to try and use all the new words as many times as we could throughout the day. W did a few pages of Writing Sentences and sat with us during the vocabulary.

In the afternoon we went to TRU to spend W's giftcards. He got a new Operation game, Shrinky Dinks, Rubik's Revolution, a Cube World thing, a huge Spiderman ball, a smaller blue ball, a video game, something for J, and a few other small toys. I saw "SET" and bought that. I have been hearing good things about it and just had to try it out. We played it last night when I got home from work and I think it's as great as everyone says. It took a while to get the hang of it, but Wow, when they got it, they got it. I can see how it really gets them thinking and examining details. And it was fun, too!

This morning the kids made a ton of Shrinky Dinks. I used to love those. We'll play a game of Set in a few minutes, I'll clean for an hour while the kids do some seatwork, then I'll pick up K from school, drop J off at dance at 4, drive home, and get the car service to work at 4:30 so B has the car to get J later. I'm tired already, lol.

J has 3 dance competitions in a row coming up: the weekends of March 28, April 4th, and April 11th. Well, at least I got the routine down now. She has lots of rehearsals too. And she'll do a vocal solo in at least 2 of them. She's had a slight cold, so she's done no singing practice at all, but I think she has so much more confidence this year. The kids' circus class show is April 25th, there will be at least 1 or 2 more dance comps in May, then it's the June recital - then summer is here already. That was fast.

Monday, March 17, 2008

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Northeast

Judging by how you talk you are probably from north Jersey, New York City, Connecticut or Rhode Island. Chances are, if you are from New York City (and not those other places) people would probably be able to tell if they actually heard you speak.

The Inland North
The Midland
The South
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Ok. You got me.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

That little video camera is getting a LOT of use. W is making videos of everything and everybody and he and J are learning how to make stop-motion videos. It's uploaded onto the computer and they can watch what they've made immediately and edit parts of it. It's so cool.

On Wednesday, J and W went to the doctor. Both are in perfect health! I put the well-checkups off for a couple of years because my favorite pediatrician in the world retired and I didn't like anyone else. So a few weeks ago I figured I'll just use the replacement in the office and set up an appt for the kids. How happy was I to find out that my pedi decided retirement wasn't working for him and CAME BACK! Woooohoooo! He was just as wonderful as ever.

He mentioned that J needed a booster shot (DTP). He said the age used to be 15, but they lowered it to 11/12. I told him the kids are homeschooled and don't have to follow the school vaccine schedule. He always gave the vaccines at the far end of the timeline, which I loved. And he was fine with J waiting on that booster. And then he jumped into a few hundred homeschooling questions. He was genuinely curious without judgement. He said he was fascinated by it and I explained what we do and how we do it. I've always been off his beaten path (extended breastfeeding, soy milk, cloth diapers, family bedding, etc) where he'd look over his glasses at me funny, so he's used to me. He asks tons of questions and we end with him willing to do further research on it. I love him. (He is also the "question the pediatrician" doctor in a major parenting magazine) Anyway, J is in the 50%-ile for both height and weight and "looks like an athlete", lol. W is in the 90th%-ile for both height and weight. Yeah, he'll probably be a linebacker. Great visit, and when the pedi said to come back in a year, he added, "I'll be here!"

J's pics are up from the competition last weekend. Go to Scroll down and click on "stage shots/order". Then click on "American Dance Awards". Then click on "Trenton". Then click on "270-279". Make sure you have 25 thumbnails per page. Go to page 7 (out of 14). Click on image #7970 (bottom row, middle) and that's J's carry-over number from last year. You can use the single forward arrow to see the rest of her shots.

We went to the Hall of Science again the other day after the kids' circus class. I got more info on the lab the kids can use and W is going to start doing the Science and Art Fridays they have there. We were only there a couple of hours. It was fairly empty and the kids had a great time. We were joined by an NYU student who is doing a paper on homeschooling. He wantd to tag along with us on one of our "field trips" and I think he had a fun time with us, lol. Hi T!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

On Monday, J started a new book, "The 5 People You Meet in Heaven". W read Morris the Moose to me, which was amazing. I still can't believe how his reading took off when we cut out most of the phonics games, books, and websites. He does use phonics after staring at an unfamiliar words for 10 seconds, though, but attempting to teach him more will just go right out the other ear. I absolutely LOVE listening to him read.

Both kids went on to copywork after reading. J copied half of a huge passage from Shakespeare's As You Like It and W copied a few sentences from a new Frog and Toad book. Then J did another math lesson in Teaching Texbooks (with her earphones in) and I sat with W to do math workbook games. He loves "greater than, less than, and equal to". I learned inequalities in about 3rd grade and never learned to use the correct sign until high school. He picked it up immediately and sped through 3 pages of exercises (like 20 to a page!). After about 20 minutes of math, J did some spelling in a workbook and W went to lie down since he was getting sniffy and sneezy.

They were very happy with all they'd got done. They do prefer a weekly schedule with their mornings full of academic learning. Maybe J's just got used to it from spending 4.5 years of her life in school. W just goes along with whatever she does. Well, we will keep at it this way until they're ready to change things up.

Tuesday they turned off the tv and asked if we could start. I grabbed a history book and read to them about the first colonists, Roanoke, Jamestown, Sir Walter Raleigh, England, and John Smith. J grabbed a notebook and wanted to take notes on it all. W also got out his pen and paper, but prefered following along with the flippy atlas map we have of the eastern states. They love American History. I'm going to pick up more art supplies this week so they can make projects on the history (and world history and science) that we go over. W enjoys the hands-on stuff more and J learns better when creativity is involved.

Their schedule is still a work in progress. And life will get in the way of it sometimes and that's ok.

Monday, March 10, 2008

We got to the hotel by around 4pm Friday and then to the comp venue by 5 to see the teens perform. We got back to the hotel by 8:30, ordered dinner in, and the kids went right to bed. J's Saturday was gonna be a long one and the weather was supposed to be cold, windy and rainy again. Saturday morning, I drove to get breakfast, got J dressed in her first costume (along with hair and makeup and team gear) and got us all to the comp by 9am. At about 6:15pm, J was dressed and ready for her 6th number of the day - her solo - and waiting backstage to go on when it happened...

The power blew.

In the whole town.

Right in the middle of some poor kid's dance.

It was surreal. It was dark, there had to be over 600 people in this small high school that had a few weak emergency lights, and little kids were screaming. W was scared, K was loving it, J took it in stride, B found J and kept everyone together, and I was pissed off that small towns with histories of power outages don't do enough to prevent subsequent ones.

Anyhoo, they did a quickie awards ceremony with a packed auditorium and no microphone, but it worked and I had a lot of respect for the emcee and whomever ran the competition. Everything stayed pretty organized and we were dismissed for the evening with further details to be announced.

Back at the hotel (which was in the next town over, so power was on) our whole studio just hung out at the bar, havind dinner and drinks and really enjoying the evening. It was only 7:30pm (we expected to be at the competition til after 10) and the kids were eating, swimming, and having a blast. I grabbed a piece of cake from the hotel store, stuck 2 birthday candles in it and about 40 people were there to sing Happy Birthday to W. It was so perfect. That morning we gave him his gift - a Disney video camera. He LOVES it. It's easy to use and he can edit his videos on the computer. And that night he got to be with his friends, swim, and be the center of attention for a bit.

On Sunday we had another early morning. The power was back at the high school and at 9am they were picking up where they left off. J did her 2 solos before 11am and we stayed until awards at 1:30. They did GREAT! There were a total of 20 studios there, and over 500 numbers performed over 3 days. This comps 3 highest awards are: High Silver, Gold, and Ultimate Gold (instead of the common gold, hi-gold, platinum). J's 7 numbers got 3 High-Silvers, 3 Golds, and 1 Ultimate Gold. Theirs was the highest scoring production number (1st place), their 2 small group numbers placed 4th and 2nd (in the overall small group category), and their large group placed 3rd (in overall large group category). After the Sunday awards, we said our goodbyes and took W to a big dinner out. He chose seafood (yum) and then we went to the movies. It was a really nice weekend, even with the blackout.

Today we start the new homeschool schedule. I'll post later or tomorrow as to how it goes.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Although we have a daily/weekly schedule, life tends to get in the way of it often. J has been asking for it again...a lot. She definitely does not like flying by the seat of her pants throughout the day with suggestions and ideas from me. She wants me to enforce the written schedule by laying everything out, sitting with her, and acting more like "teacher" than suggestion-maker or encouraging bystander. She wants to know what her week has in store ahead of time. She wants to learn a million things and wants to learn them "right" - and I'm the major factor in that. There are another million things she can and has learned without me (dance, computer everything, fashion, art, songwriting, etc), enjoys delving into those on her own, and learns more constantly. But she wants to excel at academics like her friends, and she needs my help keeping it all organized and complete. I get it now.

I have noticed also that W's whole attitude and behavior changes for the better when his morning has a rhythm to it and the tv stays off. He enjoys having a schedule and loves completing his "work" to show daddy later.

So, that's what it will be. Starting next week I plan on creating a new, fun schedule with the kids input, incorporating plenty of academics using the books, programs, activities, and methods they love so much. It may seem to swing away from the pure unschooling that I've become so fond of, but in a way, since this is what the kids want and are asking for, I believe it still falls under that umbrella. I still find a problem using any coercion or punishments with this, though. I'll direct, they have total input. Looks like a plan to me. Any feedback on this will be very appreciated :)

K sang beautifully in her school talent show this week. She sang "Only Hope" and it did bring me to tears. The theme was black-and-white and she wore a gorgeous black tunic shirt/dress with a plain white tank underneath, lace-bottomed capri leggings, and strappy wedge shoes. I curled her hair and she wore silver hoop earrings and bracelets. She loves performing. I think she'd really enjoy being a part of the community theater productions in the area.

We're leaving today for a competition in NJ. All of J's numbers (7 of them) are on Saturday. The older team has their solos tonight and their groups Sunday. We're leaving early on Sunday to spend the day celebrating W's 7th birthday - which is tomorrow! I can't believe my baby is 7!