Friday, May 30, 2008

We had such a nice week. Wednesday we went to our homeschool group's geography club. The country was South Africa and the kids did oral presentations on various subjects. J joined up with her friend ("A" - her co-entrepreneur with the juice stand) and did a presentation on native languages. W did his on typical food. We listened to some great ones, too. And the potluck South Africa-themed lunch was really fun. I decided it's safer that I don't cook, so we stopped on the way over and picked up some pineapple-coconut ice cream for everyone.

Thursday the kids had their weekly circus class. J has almost perfected back- and front flips. I can see W has gotten way more coordinated over the months as well. I'm sure what he has learned in this class will help him in football - which starts this Sunday! There are 2 more circus classes this season and then we'll see if we want to do it all again in September.

Today was an awesome homeschool group trip to the Covanta Energy-from-Waste facility in Long Island. It was for older kids so I dropped J (and A) off and took W to the nearby park. I gave J my camera and she took some cool pictures of the facility. The kids got a tour around the place and saw huge holding areas of garbage and learned about the whole process.

After that, I took all the kids for a bite to eat and dropped all of them off at the Improv class at the library. This was the last class and the parents got to sit in and watch. They played a bunch of games, learning about stage presence, direction, getting various scenes across using only pantomime, working off each other, and using tons of imagination. That was over at 5 and we drove W out to Cub Scouts for his 5:30 meeting. He had the best time. He has already made some friends and is really looking forward to the big Fishing Derby camping trip next weekend. B is excited to go, too, and has started making lists of what they should bring. Tonight's meeting was all about the trip - the boys made a paper plate fish craft and got a bunch of info sheets on identifying different fish. I left W there and dropped J off at dance (which is only a few blocks from Cub Scouts - yes, I planned it that way, lol). There's only one more week before the recital and then it's the Summer Intensive. B is in the recital parent number and will be there with J until about 9:30pm.

The kids want to continue with the scheduled academics over the summer. I spent a lot of time going over various websites and the final consensus was a loose combination of AmblesideOnline (years 6 and 1) and Mater Amabilis (years 3 and 1B). The book lists are fabulous and the lesson plans they have are great to use as a guide for the day. J is excited that yesterday we finally bought Tom Sawyer. She also picked out the next Summer Bridge book (7th-8th grade). She's always loved those from when we first started homeschooling. They're just a bright, colorful, hodge-podge of activities to do. W's just happy keeping busy with anything, lol. He likes writing and math a lot. I see a big difference in the kids when we spend at least an hour on academics. Their whole day is a lot more focused and they seem to get along better, too. It's interesting.

Monday, May 26, 2008


W marched in a local Memorial Day parade today! He was really excited to meet up with his new cub scout friends again. We met in front of the meeting hall at around noon and walked over to the parade area. The boys got lollipops, American flags, and lined up behind the older boy scouts with the big banner. I love parades. I was especially moved today watching all the veterans. They walked, they marched, they were in wheelchairs or on floats. The parade-goers all clapped and yelled out "Thank You" as they went by. They did this for the current military men and women, too. W's group walked with their heads high and showed their pride the whole quarter-mile down the avenue. One thing I notice about some of the towns in Queens is that they have a great sense of community and a real small-town feel to them. I love that. NY Senator Charles Schumer marched with us as well. He kept saying "Thanks for remembering!". That made me teary, too. I think US veterans should be put on a pedestal. To spend years of your life protecting and fighting for our country deserves so much respect and thanks. I'm grateful to all of them.

We bought a new computer today - I couldn't stand the HP we had. We bought a Dell and so far I'm loving it. I played around a lot today, getting the connections working, transferring files, and getting a feel for this Windows Vista. One thing I did was go over the kids' new schedules. They seem to have a lot on their plates. We'll be starting this week and will just have to tweak it as we go along. I know they're ambitious and determined, but we'll see how much actually gets checked off. I'll be posting about the academic stuff several times a week. It certainly makes it easy for me to write up the district paperwork that way. We'll be utilizing the libraries and bookstores a lot. The next book on J's list is Tom Sawyer. I'm pretty sure W will love that one, too.

Friday, May 23, 2008

In keeping with the kids' decision to have scheduled academics on weekday mornings, we sat together this week and pulled great stuff from a few different websites that focus mainly on Charlotte Mason. It's been working really well so far and they want to continue with the great readalouds, narrations, copywork, nature study, art, history timeline, dictation, and artist/composer studies. And they also want to keep doing their favorite workbooks, J's math program, science experiments, crafts, homeschool co-ops, field trips, and W's spelling tests (he loves those). I have also found some awesome booklists of classics I think they'll love. It's just so amazing to me how much fun they have with it all. J especially, can't get enough. She's like a sponge for learning new things. I'm so grateful that homeschooling brought that back to her.

Any schedule we make is really only guideline for us, and we don't always get everything done that's on our list. And that's totally okay. I love the days they spend being creative and engrossed in their own artwork or game they made up. It's fun and stress-free to follow their lead and see what the day holds. Even if we follwed the schedule to the letter, I don't think it would take more than 3 hours. The entire rest of the day is a free, unscheduled cornucopia of whatever they choose. Both kids got the painting bug again and are currently into acrylics on canvas and paper. Can life get any better?

Dance this week has been all about the recital coming up next month. J's in about 10 numbers (including her vocal solo) and they're still learning stuff like the finale and opening numbers. On Wednesday we went to a class at a nearby environmental center with the homeschool group. The topic for both groups was insects and there must have been about 40 kids total. I organized it and had 2 classes running at the same time - one for ages 6-9 (about 15 kids) and another for ages 10-13 (about 25 kids). It seemed everyone enjoyed it and even got to take home a butterfly larvae. We're putting ours in one of our old, small fishtanks where it'll hang from the top and hopefuly soon turn into a butterfly. Thursday was the circus class. They're still loving it and both want to continue with it next year. J is also begging for violin lessons, but she'll already have dance, circus, voice, and sewing (plus homeschool clubs, competitions and fundraisers for dance, and volunteering somewhere). Right now, the kids are at the comedy/improv workshop (next week is the last week, and it was free). It must be nice to have all this energy, lol.

W will be doing hip-hop dance, cub scouts, and football. Football starts next week and I think he's so ready for their "Peanut" league. This Sunday is a cub scout parade. Dance starts up again in September. Thankfully most of the kids' activities won't break the bank (yet). I'm all for letting them trying whatever piques their interest. I think it's great they have so much to choose from in this city.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

W's first Cub Scout meeting was pretty cool. He liked it so we might do the last few activities for the season and then re-up in September. There were a lot of kids there who seem to be divided by age groups (or school grades). He was nervous not knowing anyone, but fit in the mix well and made a couple of friends already. They're having a year-end parade and party this coming Sunday and a weekend camping trip at the beginning of June. It looks fun and this group is really active, so we'll see how it goes.

J had her final competition of the season this weekend. She did her 3 solos and 1 group number on Saturday and 2 group numbers on Sunday. They didn't do all their groups, as this was an optional competition and there was a girl missing. Again she did so great and was happy to finish out the season on a really high note. There were about 15 studios there. Her scores were:

Jazz Solo: Extreme Gold, Special Award - "Fabulous Faces"
Musical Theater Solo (categorized as "Open" in other comps): Extreme Gold (2nd place overall out of a top 10 - our studio took the top 4 places)
Vocal Solo: Extreme Gold
Small Group, Jazz: Platinum (1st place overall - out of a top 10 - and highest scoring group number of the day, and the XCaliber Award $300, so each child gets $50)
Line, Tap: Platinum
Large Group, Jazz: Extreme Platinum and 1st Place overall

K was at her friend's house all day Saturday and joined us on Sunday morning to cheer J on at the competition's second day. After her 2 groups, I brought J back to the dance studio to have headshots taken. B took W and K to CCD where it was the last day of classes until September. They met us back at the studio at around 1 and we drove out to my sister's house for my nephew's First Communion party. It rained most of the day, but we all had a great time. We got home around 8pm and B and the kids transferred our goldfish and water frog into a larger tank. We had to take the bullfrog tadpole out the other day because he grew some front legs seemingly overnight and now he needs less water and a place to climb out on. The tadpole has been fascinating for the kids (and me). Every day it changes more. We can't wait to see how big of a frog it becomes. Pretty cool entertainment for less than 2 bucks, lol!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

This week the kids have been busy at friend's houses, circus class, the playground, and running errands with me. J and her friend A are still running their juice stand - and still doing pretty well at it. W got a RipStik on Sunday from my mom. She bought it for him for Christmas, but we both thought it looked too big for him. A friend of his has one and W really liked it, so mom decided why not let him have it (she never did return it to the store, lol). So he's been practicing all week on it. J likes it a lot and picked it up quickly. It's kind of like an inline skateboard that can twist to propel you forward. It's weird, yet cool. It comes with a carrying case you sling over your back and W has been bringing it everywhere. He's also been helping me with the garden (he's a great weed-puller) and riding his bike.

Circus class is going very well. The kids are learning front and back handsprings, using the ring, the trapeze, the trampoline, and doing lots of tumbles and flips. It's a great workout and sometimes I just want to jump in there and do it too! There's still another month of classes.

W expressed interest in becoming a Cub Scout, so I called around and found a pack that meets on Fridays (when I'm off) and fit's in with our schedules. There's only 2 meetings left for the school year, but W was invited to join in now anyway. They have 4 Eagle Scouts this year. So if kids are sticking it out, it must be a good group. We'll see. It's after the acting class they have tomorrow, so I think we'll make it.

K's school year is winding down. Next week is "spirit week" and she's looking forward to it. Every day next week has some fun theme to it. On Memorial Day weekend she's going to a dance club for teens with all her friends and the school has some big trip planned for June. I'm just looking forward to her last day of the year.

J's last competition for the season is this weekend. Her solos are on Saturday afternoon with awards at 9pm and groups are on Sunday morning. She's doing all 3 of her solos (2 dance and 1 vocal). This one is close to home and she's so excited. Then the recital is June 8th and then the summer session starts. J is an assistant teacher to 5 y/os on Tuesdays. For the recital she will be in the pit in front of the stage directing the kids during their dance. The studio owner emailed me today saying things like: she did a terrific job, she was so impressed, she loved how the kids reacted to her, it made her smile, J is a teacher at heart, and she wanted to let us know it didn't go unnoticed. B and I both had tears in our eyes reading that. I had no idea J was doing all of that with the kids. I did notice how she was so mature and confident at the recital rehearsal last week and really knew what she was doing. I'm always proud of her no matter what, but it was extremely touching that she was recognized and appreciated for it. :)

Friday, May 09, 2008

Boy On a Bike

W is finally up and on a 2-wheeler like a pro. Last fall we knew he needed a new bike and let him practice on his sister's old one to get the hang of it. It was painfully small - and had a flat tire - but he rode it 50 feet. Then he fell over and decided he wasn't crazy about bike riding. We found a gorgeous bike for him on Craigslist for $40. It is big (more for like a 9-10 y/o) but I figured he'd do ok. But even with the seat down all the way, he still couldn't touch the ground with his feet, so we left the bike in the garage until the other day.

We went out in the backyard to play some basketball and I suggested he try sitting on his bike to see if he's grown taller. His toes reached the ground! He wanted to practice back and forth in the backyard and after an initial push-off, he did it! He wanted to try it at the park around the corner (which has a much bigger paved area) so off we went. He put on his helmet, swung his leg over, I gave him a push and he rode all over the park, turning, slowing down, speeding back up, using the hand brakes, and being brave enough to ride one-handed. Stopping without toppling over took a couple more tries, but he got it. He lets the bike tip to the side and lands flat on one foot now without missing a beat.

He is shocked that he got the hang of it the first time (I am too, actually). He loves the wind in his face and darting in and out of the skateboarders. He's now asking to ride every day. I love that the perfect riding spot is right around the corner - safe, big, and open. Yay W!

Monday, May 05, 2008

The kids and I went to the zoo,... um, Queens Wildlife Center today. We planned on hitting the Hall of Science, but afer we watched to 137th schoolbus file into their parking lot, we rethought that idea. It was such a nice day out and walking around outside was definitely more doable. We go there every year or so, but the kids seemed so excited about it today as if the were seeing everything for the first time. W loved the hidden code information circles (where you put your red card over it to read the info). The animals were all out and walking around. I guess morning is probably the best time to go. They really liked the aviary, where the birds flew right next to you. We saw South American parakeets (beautiful green), egrets, a turkey vulture, porcupine, and lots of others.

At the pond we saw 2 of these:

And that was very timely since we're still reading Trumpet of the Swan. And lots of other animals:

We then headed over to the petting zoo (now called the Children's Farm). I guess they're trying to make these sound more animal friendly or something. After that the kids took a ride on the carousel. It's a great park. I want to take the kids back there with their bikes soon.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Ok, so as if the kids aren't busy enough, J reminded me on Friday morning about the free improvisation-comedy-drama workshop (for ages 10-14) that was at 4pm that day. Sheesh. I did forget, actually. But she and her friend (A) signed up for it and both were dying to go. I drove her over there, she got settled in, we met the worman running the class (a "real" actress, so they say), and went off with W to the run some errands. W and I returned after like 10 minutes and hung around the place when one of the workers there said that there's some more room in the class and W is welcome to join them. What? "Um, he's only 7". "Oh, that's fine". And off he went, happy to get to do this too.

Now I knew J wouldn't be too keen on her little brother being in there with her, but it worked out well. When they came out she said he was hamming it up a bit and told weird jokes. W said he loved the class and only told jokes because the instructor asked him to (which she did). After a few minutes the instructor found us upstairs to return W's jacket and I mentioned that W might be to young for this class and I'm not sure if it's a good fit for him. She said (almost whispering) that W was "really good at it" and "was truly the best boy in the class" and "so adorable". Ok, so maybe this might be his thing. He wants to do the entire 4 weeks - fine with me (and you can't beat free). J promised to be a little more tolerant next time, lol. The instructor also told me that we should look into the kids theater group she runs in Manhattan for J. That was a nice offer I thought.

Today the kids performed in their circus show! It was originally scheduled for April 25, but we were busy that weekend and they were nice enough to reschedule it for us. They did really great! They did a 15 minute routine during the big 2-hour show. The place was packed! I didn't think there'd be such a turnout. The 6 homeschooled acrobats had the audience cheering and clapping and on their feet. It was so friggin cool. A (very) famous tennis player was sitting near us in the audience. That was cool too. :)

In other news, I found a place near us that gives private hour-long voice lessons for a great price. J didn't really connect with the girl from last year so we've been on the lookout for something else. She'll be doing a new vocal solo for next year's competition season and wants to start lessons at least by August. I think we hit paydirt. I need Tuesday early afternoons and they have that timeslot available. I prefer around the same hourly rate I was paying last year and they charge less. J prefers someone youngish - their teacher is young (mid-30s). J needs someone who knows Broadway - their teacher specializes in Broadway. I need something close by - this place is 1.97 miles and 6 minutes away (according to mapquest). Is this meant to be? We shall see.

Friday, May 02, 2008

On Sunday the kids had their CCD class. They've missed 3 weeks in a row due to us being at the circus and 2 competitions. It seems to be ok though. K taught the 6th grade class for the day. I know it was a big job (there are some rowdy ones in there), but K handled them well. In the afternoon we all went to a big party for our (hs) friend's 2 daughters - one made her Confirmation and one made her First Holy Communion. It was a lot of fun, with a big sit-down Italian dinner, a DJ, dance floor, and tons of kids.

On Monday we all pitched in and cleaned up the house. Tuesday the kids did a lot of table work from their schedules and I did a couple of readalouds. J had dance at 4, where they're putting the final touches into some recital numbers. They're also tightening up their company routines for the upcoming competition.

On Wednesday we met up with the new homschool group for a book quilting discussion.. The kids are going to eventually make a big quilt and every square will be of the kids' own creation based on their favorite book. The big kids (10 of them ages 8-11) went into a separate room to work on their ideas. The little kids (9 of them ages 3-8) discussed their favorite books, read us some books, and enjoyed some play time. After that, some of us went to get pizza and then returned to the library for an awesome class on making Andean pan flutes. This was a free class given by the library and we were invited to join in. The instructor was an amazing flute player and has been giving these classes for over 20 years. He got down to the basics and showed the kids how to cut the reeds to size, what kind of musical scale is generally used in these flutes, and how to put it all together. He even played us a few tunes. Everyone got a hacksaw (!) and sawed away at the reeds. Then sanded it down flat and got it ready for stringing. It was really cool and the kids loved it!

J went over a friend's house after that class. K met up with friends after school and just hung out all day. She gets out early on Wednesdays and has a few hours to herself. The kids meet up at a nearby juice bar or snack place usually. Ah, to be a teen again.

Thursday was the circus class. They rehearsed their routine mostly for their show on Sunday. The adult group is a profesional bunch of acrobats who do weekend shows every spring. All the kids classes get to show themselves off during one of the professional shows. J and W's class has theirs in 2 days. B, K, and I are going and my mom is driving in to see it as well. It looks so cool. After that I'm going to meet up with my homeschool mom friends for a Mom's Night Out. I'm really looking forward to that!

When we left the circus class we headed over to a pretty little park for a May Day celebration. One of the moms (S) made a really awesome may pole and the kids were so excited to ribbon the pole down to the bottom. We all brought picnic stuff and had a great lunch on the grass. It was a gorgeous day. The boys went off to play baseball while the girls made flower wreaths for their hair. S brought a few bouquets to cut the flowers off of and showed the girls how to string them into a crown. I was impressed at how they came out. When it was may pole time, the girls (and a boy or 2) grabbed a ribbon and interweaved themselves around each other in a alternating circles to create a braid of ribbon down the pole. It wasn't perfect, but they certainly tried really hard and I know they had a blast. They were at it for a while, trying new dances and attracting a bit of an audience, lol.