Saturday, June 28, 2008

Hall of Science again yesterday. Yeah, we can't get enough of that place. It was great because a lot of homeschool moms met up there and I got to meet a bunch of new people. Most of the kids were W's age, so he got to hang out and play with new and old friends. They had the new Magic exhibit which was really cool. Here's some pics (The Body-less Head, the Levitating Chair, and the regular exhibits like The Green Screen, How Fast is Your Baseball?, and The Rock Climbing Wall):

Ok, so I finally received all the books for the new Ambleside year we're gonna have. It feels weird to actually follow a set schedule with set books, but I'm game for anything. I wrote everything out that we're planning. It's written out in a way I can keep track. This one is for W. Are you ready? Ok, take a look at this:

Scheduled readings and research will include these books:

Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock
James Herriot's Treasury for Children by James Herriot
The Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess
The Burgess Seashore Book for Children b Thornton Burgess

And a focus on mammals, birds, and wildflowers. Will also include nature study, nature notebook, readalouds, sketching, painting, observations, collections, experiments, and projects.
The year will also include field trips to various science museums, attractions, and events.

Language Arts
Phonics work will include the Total Reading Grade 2 workbook
Poetry (readalouds, memorization, copywork) will be from:

A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson
Now We Are Six by A. A. Milne
When We Were Very Young by A. A. Milne

Scheduled readalouds with oral narrations will be from:

The Aesop for Children by Milo Winter
Tales from Shakespeare by Charles Lamb
Parables from Nature
The Blue Fairy Book
Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling

Additional reading will include:

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
King of the Golden River by John Ruskin
Peter Pan by James M. Barrie
Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
St. George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
Fairy Books by Andrew Lang

Also will include scheduled copywork from various sources (Classic lit, Bible, Poetry), weekly spelling tests, typing, handwriting, and foreign language: Spanish and Latin.

Will include the Total Math Grade 2 workbook.
Will also include consumer math, banking, budgeting, use of manipulatives, and hands-on calculations in context.

Social Studies
U.S. and World History will include Patriotism and these books:

Our Island Story
Fifty Famous Stories Retold by James Baldwin
Viking Tales

History Biography will include these books:

Benjamin Franklin by Ingri D'Aulaire
George Washington by Ingri D'Aulaire
Buffalo Bill by Ingri D'Aulaire

Geography will include these books:

Paddle to the Sea by Holling C. Holling
Tree in the Trail

The year will also include the creation and continuous updating of a wall timeline, projects, and field trips to various ethnic and historic neighborhoods, history museums, attractions, and events.

Visual Arts
Will include Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes

Plus various art tools including: watercolor, acrylic, and tempera paints, charcoals, colored pencils, sculpting clay, pencils, canvasses, crayons, felt, chalk, oil pastels.

Methods include: still life, nature sketching, sculpting, painting, collages, holiday crafts, photography, and computer graphics.

Handicrafts will include: sewing, knitting, soap carving, finger weaving, and various Cub Scout activities.

The year will also include several field trips to various art museums, attractions, and events.

This year will include wide exposure to all forms of music, with emphasis on traditional, folk, and classical music and composers. Unstructured piano, recorder, and guitar practice.

Physical Education
Will include participation in weekly/semi-weekly youth tackle football (May to December), weekly basketball clinic (February to April), weekly circus arts classes (Sept to May), and free indoor and outdoor play.

Continued discussions, reading, websites, and projects including: Personal cleanliness* Dental hygiene* Basic food groups * Communicable diseases* Preventive measures against disease* Neighborhood safety.

Am I out of my mind? Maybe. The kids are so ready. Me? Not so sure. I bought all the books used (1 cent, 3 cents, eighty cents, etc). It sure looks good on paper. J's is even more cool looking. I'll post hers next time. We'll be starting this very soon - maybe this week. Tomorrow B is taking the kids out to my mom's and I'll be home all by myself to finish moving furniture and getting this place back together after losing a living room and creating 2 more bedrooms. Once we're up and running again (and dh's dresser is out of the durn dining room, lol) we'll have the area to do tablework, an uncluttered couch for readalouds, and the kids can relax and read in privacy in their own bedrooms. I'm curious how this year will pan out. We'll see.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

We had an easy relaxing week. I've been planning and replanning how we're going to rearrange this apartment into 4 bedrooms. I think I got it now and I'm actually starting the moving and cleaning today. There is still a bunch of things we need to buy (blinds, mirrors, doors, chairs, a bed, a couch, and paint) but we'll get those as we can - a couple of things a month maybe. I think we're all going to love how this turns out.

K completed 2 regents exams already. One more on Tuesday and she gets 2 months and 2 weeks outta there. It so unbelievable how school changes kids. Well, at least they get every summer to de-stress and find themselves again. I've always loved summer for that reason. I'm already planning lots of family stuff to do.

J has been hanging out with her friend A almost every day. They are still running their "snack shop" and making some good money. The other day they decided to take some of that money ($50) and get their second ear piercing and a few other things from Claire's. J's dance studio did a cancer "Relay for Life" fundraiser on Saturday. She did 2 group numbers and just hung out and picnic'd with friends the rest of the evening. The big, grassy park was the perfect place to get her back handsprings down pat.

W had a good time at the fundraiser. He has 4 regular 7/8 y/o friends from the dance studio - 1 is a dancer and 3 are other little brothers. They played tag and football and got their faces painted.

After football yesterday, B took W to the playground. J had slept over A's house so K and I had the house to ourselves. It was the perfect opportunity to clean and move furniture! I filled about 3 bags of garbage, took apart a breakfast nook bench, found clothes everywhere and made a huge pile, swept an mopped every exposed floor area, and rearranged a bunch of stuff. The dining room is now the dining-living room. It has a table and chairs, couch, TV, coat closet, pantry, china cabinet, and art center (which I'm transferring to the china cabinet today). K was a huge help. B and W got home around 3 and by 4pm B decided to take the kids to see Kung Fu Panda. I was very appreciative of that since I do my best rearranging with no one underfoot. It looks awsome, btw. The old living room is now 2 bedrooms - one for each girl. Large armoires (one facing each of them) are the room divider and the beds are in.

Today I need to transfer the girls clothes into the armoires, the art shelving into the china cabinet, the empty art shelving into the kitchen, the fish tank to K's room, the books to new bookcases, our homeschool books into the china cabinet, and 2 boxes of videotapes to the basement. Then the girls can decorate their rooms the ay they want to. The china cabinet is huge and I've always felt it was too big for the apartment. After 15 minutes of is being a display case (with storage underneath), it will now be used to house some of our homeschool and art supplies with the pretty display stuff (Hummels, crystal, chinaware, Precious Moments, and certain memories) right in the middle. I'm still thinking about how things should look.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

All W

B, K, and I watched W at football practice on Sunday. We brought our fold-out chairs and relaxed with coffee and rolls on the grass. I loved every minute of it. The boys started with a lap around the park, jumping jacks, and running exercises. Then the 10-11 y/os went one way to practice and the 6-9 y/os went the other way. W's group started with the tackling dummies. The coach is a great instructor and I can see W has a lot of respect for him already. Listening and following directions are a must - and a lot of these kids are learning that the hard way. W got a lot of praise for his tackling - lots of high-5s and "YES!s". B was impressed with W's form, too. I'm sure B won't miss any of W's practices. In the above video, W is the kid in the middle with the white shirt - you can see the coach clapping for him at the end, lol. The last 1/2 hour was spent with the boys learning their first play. They put W as tight-end and they ran a few plays like that. I'm curious how the kids are going to do with equipment on. Of course my first thought was how cute W's going to look and wondering what kind of photo package I can get, lol. After practice we picked up J (who's singing solos with her friend A in the church choir) and headed out to my parent's house for Father's Day.

J spent the day yesterday at A's house, and W and I went to the Hall of Science. It's one of his favorite places in the world and he asks to go very often. Thank God we get in free (and live 5 minutes away) or we wouldn't go so much. He had a blast, as usual, making sure we hit every floor and every section. We only caught one demo (laser light) since we got there so late. But we do it on purpose to avoid the deluge of unruly school kids. We did run into a few kids who were just loud and obnoxious - W came right over to me and said, "See? This is why I choose not to go to school". I LOL'd and was thankful about that as well. Here are some pics:

W ended up getting 2 patches at the cub scout awards ceremony last week - one for the parade and one for fishing. He got a birthday party invitation from one of the kids and a bunch of them are already planning summer playdates. It's nice that one of his new friends lives right up the block from us. I might look into other summer activities for him if he's interested, too. The kids will be doing a lot of CM activites over the summer to ease gently into Ambleside's Years 1 and 6 come September. We've already got the whole thing planned and they're very eager to get to it. So the summer will have lots of readalouds, nature studies, a bit of copywork writing, listening to more classical music, visiting more museums, doing more art projects, and J will continue with her math program. I'm happy that they're happy with it. I'm still getting used to the heavier emphasis on academics - they still need to prod me into action most mornings, lol. But I'll get there. I do think we're in for a terrific summer.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Today was the last day of the kids' circus class for the season. They loved it so we're thinking about signing up again in the fall. The did a lot of cool things today. First, they walked in, crawled in, and glided along the outside of the huge hamster wheel. This looked like a lot of fun and I wanted to jump in there with them. Then they did tricks on the big circus ring. The instructor was inspired by the Circus of the Stars that was on last night and had them hang, swing, and spin on it. Finally it was trapeze time and they did some cool tricks on that and flipped off of it onto the mat. It was sad to see it end already. The instructor came up to me at the end of class and mentioned that she thinks J would be great in their kids company. I asked about it and she said the kids practice every Friday afternoon and get to perform often. She also said it's only for kids who are "selected". J just looked at me with her jaw on the floor. She couldn't believe she was actually selected for this team of kids. They know she has a heavy dance schedule but they want us to consider it anyway.

J was also excited to be a part of "ballet 2" and soon "acro 2" in the summer dance intensive. These are the highest levels and she really wanted to be in those. She's starting vocal training next week, too. She'll be trying out the new coach we found to see if they "connect" at all. She seems pretty set on the song she'll be competing with next season and we just need to copy what we downloaded onto a CD and have it cut to under 3 minutes. So next season, in addition to the 5 or 6 group numbers she'll be in, she'll have 2 dance solos (if we carry over one), a dance duet, and a vocal solo for competition.

W has football practice every Sunday morning during the summer. He's getting his uniform and equipment next week, too. The coach said they ease the kids into getting used to all the heavy gear. They start out with just helmets and move forward from there. I had a nice conversation with the coach today. I called to get the summer schedule and found out he played for this team himself starting at age 9 and continued throughout his teens. He played football in high school and college and went semi-pro. By that time he'd started a family and was still working full-time and after a few years he knew his family was more important and put football away for a while. I'm glad W's got him. He's awesome with the kids and really knows what he's doing. W gets a cub scout patch tomorrow at their awards meeting. That's it for scouting for the summer. It picks up again in September. And W is asking to take tap dance lessons over the summer. His friend is in the little dance company and W wants to learn to tap like him, lol. I'll see if we can swing that for him.

And my darling teenager is thrilled that her last day of school is Monday. Then it's just 3 Regents exams and she's out for the summer. She's been keeping busy at friends' houses, street fairs, movies, shopping, etc. Typical teen stuff. I'm not sure what she want to do during the summer - probably more of the same, lol. She did express interest in taking musical theater again in the fall at the dance studio. I'm glad. She is great at that kind of thing, but doesn't like to commit to anything long-term. She's the kind of kid who has tried everything (gymnastics, dance, aikido, violin, drama, cheerleading, cooking class), loses interest after a while, and wants to move on to the next fun thing. She's definitely a free spirit.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Camping and Recital

B and W went camping this weekend with the cub scouts. They left Friday night with duffles, sleeping bags, fishing poles, first aid kit, bug spray, sunscreen, and anxiety. This happened to be the first time camping for both of them. They ended up having an awesome time. W loved making up his "bed" with the sleeping bag. They fished all Saturday morning - W caught a 5" something or other and was really proud. They spent the afternoon learning to shoot a bow and arrow and playing dodge ball. That night after dinner, they found sticks and roasted marshmallows. B loved how they ran things. W got to run around all weekend with friends (B said it's funny how alike most 7- and 8-year-old boys are) and learned a lot about responsibility from the leaders. He was expected to pick up after himself, follow strict rules, and help clean up areas as a group. He did a fantastic job with no complaints. He actually likes when things are expected of him, having responsibilities, and knowing what's coming next. That could be one of the reasons why he likes having schedules at home (he's become a pro at knowing what day of the week it is and what is planned that day). I was a bit nervous at this whole cub scout thing. He missed the whole year - only showing up for 2 meetings, a parade, and a camping trip. But he has made friends, loves the leaders, and enjoys everything about it so far. B and I think the leaders are all great, everything is super-organized and well-run, and the group is really active. And this Friday he gets his very first patch.

The boys got home Sunday morning in time to shower and get to J's dance recital on time. I spent the weekend going over 12 costumes, a million accessories, 6 pairs of shoes, and summoning my dad to zip over to the dance shop for stirrup tights and a pair of foot-undeez. A full rac-n-roll trunk and 2 garment bags later, we were ready. The recital went beautifully. J had a few back-to-back costume changes (one had to be done in the wings of the stage!) but she was a true pro at it. I, on the other hand, am the one backstage with her, peeling things off and throwing things on her, constantly worrying about how much time we have. She loves it and takes it all in stride, though. She led Kindergarteners through 2 of their numbers while standing in "the pit". She was listed in the program as "Assistant Teacher" and that made me teary-eyed. 3 1/2 hours later (she had been in 10 numbers - each with a different look, from undergarments to earrings and hair) it was over. I packed everything up, J washed up, we met up with the whole family who came to see her, and then headed over to the after-recital party for a great dinner and lots of drinks.

All the kids went outside on the block to hang out, make up games, and run around with each other. They only came in to eat, grab a drink, and check in with the parents. The adults schmoozed, reminisced about the great year we had, and what the summer and fall have in store for us. It was a great party and a great ending to a fabulous weekend.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

NYC Playground

A New York City playground is one of the best places in the world. And it's pure heaven for a 7-year-old boy. I love going to the one around the corner from us. You'll see the same 5 or 6 kids/parents there on a regular basis but there's always new kids to meet whenever you go. Today W and I stopped by on our way home from dropping J off at dance. He didn't recognize anyone right away and just walked around a bit, looking for a group of kids his age. That's what W does. He looks for and then joins in any group, making new friends all the time. So today, as soon as he starts looking around he hears "Hey Boy! Wanna play freeze-tag with us?" That led to a great game of tag that went on for over an hour. I really enjoyed watching them. The kids are ALL different colors and languages and none of them could care less. The playground is this exemplary microcosm of culture and tolerance and living in the moment. W learns so many good things. Last week at a different playground W was "it" during another game of tag. This game had more older, faster kids and W was having a hard time tagging anyone. After a few minutes, I happened to see one of the kids purposely let W tag him so W would have a chance to run away. I thought that was such a nice thing to do. Today, W saw that the kid who was "it" wasn't able to catch anyone. W walked right up to him and let himself get tagged. He told me later he knows it doesn't feel good to be the slow kid and he just wanted to help him out. Pay it forward, baby!

Monday, June 02, 2008


W had his first football practice yesterday. He'll start in the 5-7 group this year where he'll learn all the basics of football and get used to the training. There were about 10 kids in his group - most of them 7 y/o. They started with jumping jacks and laps around the park. Then they learned proper "stances" and the coaches threw the ball around to them a bit. After that, they practiced ramming into tackling dummies. It was great to watch. W said that was his favorite thing - which I so knew would be, lol. They also did other drills, like knee-up running, relay races, obstacle running, and agility on the running ropes. The coaches are akin to drill sergeants - they are very no-nonsense yet really treat the kids with maturity and respect. W likes that and responds very well to it. It was rough, it was tough, it was disciplined, and best of all it was incredibly fun for him and he cannot wait to do it again!