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.