Friday, February 29, 2008

Hey! Happy Leap Day! Just for the record, although most of you already know this, I wasn't sure, so this is what I hear: Leap year exists because the earth's rotation cannot keep up with our calendar - hence we lose 1/4 day every year. So, every 4 years we give ourselves another day to make up for the loss. Otherwise, eventually summer would take place in winter, and that wouldn't be good.

It's been very cold here this week. I think the windchill has been hovering at about 7 to 17 degrees. I'm glad spring is right around the corner. I still have to put up W's new basketball hoop in the backyard!

Being home has put the kids in the mood for academic stuff. J is still loving the Teaching Textbooks program and completed Lesson 3 the other day. There are anywhere from 4 to about a dozen lessons in each chapter and there are 17 chapters. Since she wants to finish Math 7 by June, she decided to shoot for a chapter per week. I love that she sets her own goals. I'll see if she wants to write her goals down and have some sort of calendar (or draw one of those big thermometers where you keep coloring in another layer of red) to keep track of her progress. She also did some Spectrum writing workbook. This was about the parts of a research paper and how to turn an outline into a rough draft. She remembered doing this in 2nd grade, but (as I figured) she forgot just about everything she'd learned and enjoyed relearning it on her own terms.

We also finished reading Sarah, Plain and Tall. She now wants the other books in the series. While she detests the thought of book reports (which stems back to them being forced on her as busywork in the back of the room in Kindergarten - almost like punishment for being above grade level) she likes writing up book reviews. She likes it being about her opinion - what part she liked, who she connected with, what made her laugh.

W (who gets prompted to "do workbook" when J does hers) did a few pages in the Kumon Words book, and a few word games in a puzzle book. His favorite are crosswords and coded sentences. He and J spent time reading together (aww) and playing a new game we bought called Rush Hour.

We went to Barnes and Noble again - I returned some Christmas purchases which gave me a $56 gift card to use (whee!). They both picked a magazine and W ran over to me with 2 small Frog and Toad books. He said he wanted to do copywork with these. I wonder if that new chair/desk thingy we have is prompting all of this new academic interest. After the recital we'll have the other one too, and it'll look like a real school in here! UGH, lol.

K stayed home from school the other day and at around 11am (when she felt better) she conferred with her siblings and all 3 came to me to ask if they could switch bedrooms. Sure, why not? So that was their project for the day. Moving the closets, beds, clothes, toys, books, and dressers (and sweeping/mopping) took about 6 hours total. It all looks great and everyone's happy.

At circus class yesterday the kids learned more acrobatics, jumps, flips, etc. It's great exercise and W certainly needs this (along with basketball) to stay active in these cold months. I noticed that J is not only learning new moves, but she is practicing using more control with moves. Control (hand placement, body form, advanced technique) is the only thing that prevents her dance solos from getting a platinum award - she's always a few tenths of a point short - and it drives her batty. I think this circus class will help her reach that next level of dancing. And the instructor is trained in dance and J looks to her almost as a mentor.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Yesterday, J read a great book called Our World to W. This is a book about how children live in other countries. It touches on communities. food, celebrations, and recreation. It starts with 5 African countries, then goes into the other continents. They have both decide they want to read about a different country every week and each will make a project about it. The first country just so happens to be Egypt - which we can segue right into nicely after learning about Ancient Egypt.

W was inventing a few games today. He has this weird game that comes with a lot of thick, flat, wooden circles. So he took the pieces and built us each a wall and a tower. The object of his game was to flick a circle over the opponents wall to knock down the tower. Then his next game was similar to checkers. He made up new rules and figured new strategies. Then we decided to make a domino rally out of them. He was having a blast coming up with new ways to use these little circles.

In the afternoon, we received a package in the mail. One of the props J uses this dance season is a folding chair with arm-desk attached. We left the prop at the last venue so we had to order another one (ugh, I know). They only come in sets of 2, so we're keeping the other one. Yeah, it's a really schooly thing to have, but the kids love it. They spent the rest of the afternoon playing "teacher" - not "school", which was funny to me. So they used the new chair and the big blackboard mom got them a few months ago and took turns being the teacher. J plans on using the chair as her own little desk area, for when she does some workbook or do some writing. She loves that it can go anywhere in the house and fold up and away afterward.

Monday, February 25, 2008

W has been more creative lately than ever. Last night he figured out that on his Nintendo DS he can create his own virtual flip-book and make cartoons. He was at that for over an hour, creating balloons that float up and off the screen, a line that turns into a huge claw, a person cartwheeling from one side to the other, and a all bouncing across the page. That was cool. Also last night he did like 4 pages (reading/phonics) in one of his workbooks - this is a really fun and different book for him. He is doing really well with a combination of whole-language and phonics, now that I know how to present it to him. He's enjoying reading now. This morning he was making all different kinds of paper airplanes, seeing what he could create that would fly the best. I love watching him when he's in creative mode. Oh, and I think MIL is finally coming around with us homeschooling. She likes buying him new workbooks and the other day she called from the store asking if she should pick up some 3rd grade ones for him. I said, No, 2nd grade would be better. And she said that he would probably find the 3rd grade book easy since he's so bright. I almost fell off my chair. So I guess I'm not ruining his life, huh?

J and I sat together last night to read Sarah, Plain and Tall. It's a book she'd read in 3rd grade, but loved it, so we read it again. I read aloud all the narrative parts and she read all the character parts, using different voices and accents. She also spent a lot of time yesterday (and this morning) on CCD homework and studying. She goes to the religion class every week and does well without much effort. It's interesting to me that she decided to sit on the floor with open looseleaf binder and textbook, writing out definitions and reading about the Exodus, the Tower of Babel, and the Prophet Isaiah. I think it's for a test next week. I've never seen her even DO homework for that class - especially when the next class is a week away.

I know this all stems from letting kids own their educations. If I had demanded she study and do homework, I would have probably been met with resistance or a battle. When I leave it up to her to decide what she should do, she takes the time to think ahead about what it feels like to be unprepared for class and takes full responsibility for what needs to be done. It works for K the same way. Once I stopped hovering and just let her own it all, her grades went up and she actually tells me all about her day, her friends, and her thoughts. One teacher emailed me to say that K did excellent work in class (on a written piece on apoptosis). This is unusual for 9th grade! She has become very independent, mature, and responsible lately, too. And she'll still stop to give me a hug or make a bunch of snacks while we enjoy a movie together. I love spending time with her. I'm incredibly lucky to have such a cool teenager.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The other day we went with the homeschool group to a local environmental center. I had set this trip up months ago and purposely scheduled it when the school kids were off and we'd have the place to ourselves, lol. The topic was "deciduous forests" and there was a class for the younger kids (5-9) and the older kids (10-14). J and W got their own class, which is always fun. I didn't sit in on the classes, but from what I hear, the teachers were really wonderful with them. After an hour or so they each did a nature walk, pointing out things they talked about. The kids also got to learn about some of the different animal they keep there - W was in awe with the snake around his neck and J melted over the black dwarf bunny she got to pet. I was very pleased with the turnout (33 kids altogether) and the weather! I think this is the first trip I planned without it raining or snowing. I'm definitely setting up another trip there in the spring.

CCD, circus class, and basketball were all cancelled this week due to President's week. Not dance, though! Actually, another day was added since the kids are off, lol. One of the main dancers in the older group, who has been with this studio at least 6 years suddenly up and left. The owner now has to redo all the older group dances and a couple of the combined group dances. Unbelievable. The next competition is in 2 weeks. But this is a very tight, very talented group of kids and I know they'll pull it together by then.

It's snowing today! And a good amount, too! We'll be out playing in a little while! (and shoveling).

Monday, February 18, 2008

The weather here has been so werd lately. 60 degrees down to 20 then back to 60. Everyone I know is sick. Thankfully not us, though B went through a slight flu-ey cold-ish thing that lasted 2 days. I'm glad spring is right around the corner. I can't wait to spend days outside with the kids.

J got her new Teaching Textbooks math program the other day. She couldn't wait to get started on it. I sat with her as she started on the first lesson and she kept saying how much she loved it. I wish I had something like this when I was her age. I think she was at it for almost an hour when it was time to leave - and she was upset to have to cut it short. It's done on the computer with CD Roms and a big workbook. I'm going to get her some earphones so she won't be distracted by any noise.

We were at my mom's this weekend. K's Sidekick 3 was all mangled, so mom took her to the store where it was bought and it was replaced with a Sidekick Slide. The guy said the "3" was very crappily made and it's not even around anymore. Mom ripped him a new one and said she wasn't moving from the store until he did something about the broken phone. Go Ma! At least he replaced it. Usually the replacement is a refurbished phone. K got a brand new one.

So school is out this week for K. She's sleeping over a friend's house tonight, but plans on spending the rest of the week doing the ridiculous amount of homework she got. School sure knows how to kill family time. Jeez. She'll also be practicing a song for the talent show next month. And she's thinking about going on the school ski trip. I'm glad she's making the most out of her school experience. As long as she's enjoying it, that's what's important to me.

I bought some books at Borders today. A huge flip-book atlas mappy thing, a couple of books on knights (the kids' new interest since the armor exhinit at the Met), one on cultures of the world (J loves it and read some during the car ride home from Mom's), a puzzle book for W (which he did a few pages of on the car ride home), a couple of new readaloud novels, and a book on converstaional Spanish (both kids love that one). I think I'm just going to leave them out on the table throughout the week (along with some other books/resources/games that are getting forgotten about) and let the kids just go at them.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The circus class is getting better and better. J is learning more flips and is starting to try aerial cartwheels. W is gaining confidence with one-handed cartwheels and mini-trampoline jumps onto big mats. J used the trapeze again, hanging upside-down and flipping off of it. The instructor told me she is VERY good - she only needs to be shown things once and she gets them and she enjoys thinking of new things every week to challenge her. Here is a pic of the kids on the mat. In the foreground you can see 2 women practicing aerial silk acrobatics.

At home, J made soup (organic tomato and roasted pepper, really really good) and chicken nuggets for lunch. W did a couple of pages in his writing workbook, read me a bunch of stories from a cute website, and did reading activity game cards with J and me. J spent time on the American Girl website and then both kids sat together going through our baby books, "awww-ing" at every picture and caption. I ate way too many chocolates today. B gave us all a box this morning - I found a box of sugar-free ones for him, which (due to it having lots of sugar alcohol) happens to have more grams of carbohydrates than my sugary caramel ones. The kids are playing Gamecube together now and K is at the juice bar across the street from school with her friends. There's no dance today (J got the day off!), but I have work at 6 and then it's home to a nice dinner and our family screen-time watching Lost! Yay!

Monday, February 11, 2008

It was a great weekend! Friday started with workshop classes from 5-10pm. They had 3 different teachers teaching 3 different styles of dance (tap, jazz, and hip-hop). Saturday morning was more classes from 8-12, then a lunch break, then right into shooting a music video from 12:30-2:30. Saturday evening was the solos competition. Sunday morning started all the group numbers. J was done with her 5 group #s by about 11:30am. The older group from our studio (about 8 13/14 year-olds) had their dances from 11:30 to 3:30, so we stayed to watch them as well. (Out of seven possible awards to receive, High Gold and Platinum are the top 2). J was awesome. She got:

Jazz Solo - High Gold
Open Solo - High Gold
3 groups - High Gold each
2 groups - Platinum each

J's solo received 2nd place out of 13 in the jazz category. Our studio came away with first place in most of the intermediate and teen group and duet categories. There were 11 studios there from all over NY, and NJ. At the end of the final awards ceremony, they showed the music video the kids shot the day before. It was ok - very short, not many close-ups, not what I thought it would be, but overall the experience was worth it. J got some good experience with different choreography, casting, and video shooting.

W spent most of the weekend in the pool and hanging with the other little brothers. K is friends with all the dancers and had a great weekend with them. All the kids had a blast (as usual). My mom drove up on Saturday. She loves being with us and watching J dance. We got home by about 5:30pm on Sunday. It had started snowing heavily right before we left, but driving was fine. Next comp is in a month and we're already getting excited about it!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The kids went to their circus class again this morning. There are 6 kids in the class and we were the only ones there for about 20 minutes, which was cool since it was like a private lesson for them. Today they learned new leaps, falls, jumps, acrobatics, and some TRAPEZE! Omg. It was great seeing them today. J's face was one big smile throughout the whole class and W was constantly happy-dancing between his turns. W learned better cartwheels and roundoffs and J learned how to do a front handspring. B met us there after 15 minutes so he got to watch almost the whole class today. He probably won't get to do that again. He had an early doc appt and took the day off work. Here are some pics from today:

I emailed my quarterly reports yesterday. Mr. Harrington, the new NYC homeschool coordinator, emailed back saying no more emails (or faxes) will be accepted. Sigh. New guy, new rules. So then I emailed back saying, OK, I'll snail-mail it, but please be sure to email me verification that it was received. So then he calls me. He is a very very nice man and apologetically stated that there are just too many hs'ers to send quarterly responses too, but he will send one if I really need it. Actually, it's fine with me. I only need a response to the IHIP and at the end of the year. I understand the office is disorganized and he is picking up the pieces of what was left behind. He seemed adamant about not requiring anything of us that isn't in the regulations. This is good, since it could possibly mean he won't be nitpicky about wording and will most likely stay off our backs. So I'll be mailing everything - regular mail. Yep, I said it. I refuse to spend more than the 41 cents it takes to mail a letter. If they don't receive something (or conveniently "lose" stuff like they have in the past) I'll just resend it. I am so not sweating this. Oh, and I did receive letters of IHIP compliance today in the mail for both kids.

J and I spent the day running around for last minute shopping for this weekend. Her workshop includes being in a music video. Friday night is all the workshop classes and Saturday morning/afternoon is casting and creating the video. Their doing a jazz, tap, and hip-hop number for it - all with different clothes. Then right after that is the competition. J's in 7 numbers for this one. It's the most she's ever done. Today we bought black gore boots, foot undeez, capri jazz pants, $70 worth of M.A.C. makeup, sneakers, shorts, hair spray, bobby pins, hair ties, and margarita mix (oh wait, that one's for me). Tomorrow I'm getting a hair cut, the girls are getting mani-pedis, we're all finishing packing and doing the big once-over for all the costumes, shoes, and accessories. EEEEK! I can't believe it's comp time again!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

We've been full of dance mania around here. J's first competition starts on Friday and we're all pitching in for the mad last-minute scrambling. K's been such a big help, stoning costumes and helping with hair and makeup. She and W are really looking forward to a weekend of friends and pool time. J will be in workshop classes Friday night and all day Saturday, so the rest of us are looking into stuff to do in the area. The competition begins Saturday evening and continues on Sunday morning.

Sunday was the big dress rehearsal, where all costumes, makeup, and hair were shown to the studio owner. It was the first time I got to see all the numbers and I was really choked up. I feel very organized this year for some reason. I still have to stone, sew, and shop, but I'm not panicking like I usually do.

While we were at dance on Sunday, K had a rare stay-home-and-relax day and went out to dinner with MIL. B took W to basketball and both of them got haircuts. It sucks that basketball ends next month, but W got a big basketball hoop for the backyard that we're putting together when the weather isn't so cold and rainy. He'll get to practice playing all year! W's also been into card games like War lately (which lets me check off "concepts of equality and inequality" from his IHIP checklist, lol).

Over the last few days, the kids have been getting creative: painting with acrylics, making sock babies, dramatic playing with puppets, taking pictures, re-organizing their stuff, taking care of their hamsters and fish, doing activity funbooks, cooking, choreographing, exercising with Fit TV, donating old clothes, reading, making music, and inventing games. We should be getting new Metrocards soon, so we can plan more museum trips. I'll ask about it when I email my quarterly report tomorrow.