Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Museum During the Holiday Season...

...What was I thinking, lol?

J, W, and I went to the American Museum of Natural History yesterday. My cousins from Montana flew in and we agreed to meet there. I haven't see them in about 12 years, and I'd never met their kids (11yog and 7yob) so it was perfect. The kids and I arrived at the 86th Street stop on the C train and came out into a line that went all the way up the ramp and around the block. Guards were shuffling people to the end of the line. So, we walked to the end with both kids shaking their heads wondering if this was real, lol (we've been here a bunch of time and there's never a line).

Then I heard a woman apeaking to another guard at the end of the line about memberships. Of course I ran over and said, WHAT? WHAT? WWHAT ABOUT MEMBERSHIPS? I have a corporate membership to all museums and I figured it would get us in for free, but what I didn't realize was that we could CUT THE WHOLE LINE! He told us to go back down to the entrance. The first guard back at the bottom of the ramp asked to see my card. I showed him my work ID. Then he slid open this chain-link metal barrier and we walked right in. Let me tell you - J and W were VERY impressed and proud of mommmy that day, LOL!

So we go in and The woman at the desk says I get "comp" tickets for myself and 5 guests. I didn't know I could get that many people in. I thought about my cousins on one of the lines in the museum somewhere. There were 4 of them. I counted out loud and said oh well, there's 4 of them and 3 of us. The woman looked at me and said, "oh, don't worry, I'll give you an extra one". What??!! How lucky was this day?

I found my cousins (which was a miracle, since there are 3 floors with entrances and lines out the door), waved them off the line, exchanged big hugs, handed them their 4 tix, and we were ready to explore.

I love that museum and try to get there at least once a year. My cousins said they were excited to be here since they'd seen the Night at the Museum movie (the kids also read The Cricket in Times Square. Guess where they were going the next day, lol). The museum was packed. I'd never seen it like that. It was still fun, though and we visited 3 out of 4 floors. After 4 hours we had sore feet and were hungry. We went went right out the front entrance and decided to get some hotdogs from the street guy. Mmmmm. They're so good. The Montanans raved about it as well.

They continued on to Central Park and we got back on the train to go home. I dropped J off at her friend's house (she went to the movies with a bunch of kids that night) and W, B, and I relaxed at home. K was out with friends as well from earlier in the day. I have work tonight and we're going to my mom's on New Year's Eve tomorrow. I'm so excited for the new year!

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Here's what our weekly academic schedule looks like. The CM focus on science, art, literature, and history meshes really well with the types of classes and trips we often do - and we have so many of them on the agenda over the next 3 months. Using almost 100% kid input, this schedule includes only what we love and it fits very nicely into our busy lives. The kids are happy and I almost feel guilty at how enjoyable and easy this is...


Reading - lit (J)
Math (J,W)
Poetry (J,W)
Copywork (J,W)
2-3 AO Readings (W)
Free Reading (W)
Nature Study (J,W)

Reading - sci (J)
Math (J)
Master Reader (W)
Poetry (J,W)
Copywork (J,W)
Artist Study (J,W)
2-3 AO Readings (W)
Free Reading (W)

Reading - lit (J)
Math (J,W)
Poetry (J,W)
Copywork (J,W)
French (J,W)
Composer Study (J,W)
2-3 AO Readings (W)
Free Reading (W)

Reading - hist (J)
Math (J)
Master Reader (W)
Maps/Geog (W)
Poetry (J,W)
Copywork (J,W)
Timeline (W)
2-3 AO Readings (W)
Free Reading (W)

Reading - lit (J)
Math (J,W)
Sci Ess. (W)
Poetry (J,W)
Copywork (J,W)
Science Exp or Craft Project (J,W)
2-3 AO Readings (W)
Free Reading (W)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Merry Christmas

As usual, my favorite holiday was wonderful. We stayed over my mom's house on Christmas Eve - B made crabmeat-stuffed flounder, fried shrimp, and pasta with red clam sauce. In the morning we had bacon, eggs, and bagels while opening gifts. The kids did well again. They got lots of electronic devices and the younger 2 got new bikes. I got new sneakers and a 23" computer monitor (woohoo). Christmas afternoon, we had a lasagna and fresh ham dinner at mom's and then headed out to B's mom's house. It was great seeing a bunch of B's extended family - sister, brothers, nieces, nephews, aunts, cousins, etc. Dessert there was very Italian and of course, homemade: struffoli, zeppoli, cannoli, and a nice assortment of cookies.

K is off all week and my cousins from Montana are coming to NY for a few days. I can't wait to see them. I'll be their tour guide around Manhattan on Tuesday, but other than that, nothing is planned for the week. I'll probably catch up on my cleaning and organizing. I'm excited for a new year. I have so many new plans and goals.

Monday, December 21, 2009

5 Years!

Today is my FIVE year blogging anniversary.

It's amazing how far we've come since that first post in 2004.

I want to thank all of you out there for your continued encouragement and support that always keep me going.

Here's to another 5 years!

Friday, December 18, 2009


Another great Central Park Zoo class this morning. This one was all about primates. The kids started out together at tables in a classroom. The instructor had a powerpoint slide show on covering various primate facts. She gave the kids activities to do to demonstrate the reasons behind having opposable thumbs, depth perception, and unpadded hands. They had to try and tie a shoelace and button a button without using their thumbs, cover one eye and try to grab a moving object, and try to feel what was in a covered bucket while wearing a garden glove. We learned about and pet a chinchilla (they're from the rodent family) and discussed how it's different from primates. Then we all went around the zoo to see lemurs and snow monkeys - the kids checked off the various primate behaviors on their own ethograms. W really enjoyed it and J helped the kids with their activities. It was cold today, but bearable.

The subway home was warm and quick. We got home early. J went out with friends to the movies and W had his cub scout Christmas party and awards ceremony.
K went to Rockefeller Center to see the big Christmas tree with a bunch of her friends.

Callback #2

J received this letter in the mail today. She got a callback for PPAS (Professional Performing Arts School)! This was from the audition that took place at the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater. This is another great performing arts school. 10% of the school consists of professional working actors. So, kids who are currently on Broadway, filming movies in NYC, or do a tv series here would more than likely go to this school.

The sucky thing about choosing a NYC high school is that even if you get selected for every performing arts school you audition for, the main school board computer only matches you to your first choice. You never even know if you were accepted anywhere else (except for LaGuardia, which is in its own category). Well, J has her heart set on only one school. February cannot get here fast enough. Here's a couple of NYT articles...

NYT - Auditioning Their Hearts Out for High School

Firm Resolve Hides Jangled Nerves (J and I were there at this one)

Monday, December 14, 2009


W has been voluntarily reading lots of poetry lately. Now that his reading is more smooth and quick, he can enjoy (and "get") the rhymes, humor, and wittiness of poems on his own rather than with mom reading them to him. A light has been slowly turning on and getting brighter in his world and it's awesome to watch. There are still many signs of his mild dyslexia (word/letter/number reversal, sounding out is the last resort, substitution of similar-looking words, omitting small function words like a, the, of, etc). As long as he takes his time and really focuses, I bet no one would even notice if listening to him read aloud. He now reads at an even pace with good inflection. He pays attention to the punctuation and has full comprehension and retention (LOL - say that sentence 5x fast). This is an incredible improvement since August. Even though he could read and made steady improvements, he would get sad and frustrated. Once we started playing the flash card (phonics & sight words) games, using the dry-erase shelf, and committing fully to the AmOn2 schedule with the narrations, copywork, and all those great books (that he would follow along reading with me), it was like magic happened. We also use the HoP Master Reader program once or twice a week and that's been helpful as well. He is so proud of himself and reads more than ever now.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

This Week...

K ordered her Junior school pictures and her high school ring, went to a Sweet 16 at a loft in Manhattan, and went out to lunch (with her new crush).

J went to tons of dance classes (ballet, musical theater, tap, hip-hop, and contemporary), slept over a friend's house, did a dance workshop with Ryan Kasprzak (from SYTYCD) and 5 of her friends, and went to a birthday party.

W went to a class at the Hall of Science, the West Village game place, theater class, & CCD.

B booked another gig for his band in Manhattan. I finished 75% of the Christmas shopping and got a raise at work!

Life is good.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Game Time Again

Another game day today down in the West Village. After a quick train ride (less than 30 minutes), W and I enjoyed a few hours of fun with the homeschool group. Pool, ping pong, foosball, shuffleboard, and chess kept W busy for close to 3 hours. I played some pool, but had lots of fun chatting with a bunch of moms and meeting new people. J had slept over a friend's house last night and decided to spend today with her instead of coming with us. She'll be there next week, though.

We got back to Queens by 3:15pm. I picked up J and her friend, brought them to dance, came home, brought W to his theater class by 5:30 and tonight after dinner, we're all going to decorate our Christmas tree. This is the week my new work hours changed, so I now have Tuesdays off.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Science Detectives

Today at the NY Hall of Science, W's class was all about being a science detective. They learned all about fingerprints - what designs they can have, how to lift them off a surface, and even took their own prints to look at. They learned about hair samples and chromatography. They talked about different ways to make coded messages and were given worksheets to decode using a double-wheel shaped decoder. They all received another gorgeous personalized completion certificate as well. Before the class W ran around the lower exhibit area with his friend C and then sat to watch a "Video Microscope" demonstration. There were many homeschool families there and again, it was such a pleasure to have the whole place to ourselves. When the kids class was about to begin, the loudspeaker announced, "Attention homeschool families...". It's so great that homeschooling is now more culturally recognized (not just legally recognized) and accepted as a worthy educational option. I'm so glad I'm a part of the transition.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Audition #3 and LaG Callback

J did her final high school audition this morning. This one was for the Professional Performing Arts School. The dance audition was held at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. This is also where the current students have their dance classes every day from 1:00 to 4:30. We got up around 6:30am and drove there in about 15 minutes. All the kids got a number to pin to their leotards and thankfully J was in the first group of kids. Each group had about 25 kids and there were 8 groups. There are only 26 spots for incoming dance freshman. I stayed in the waiting area chatting it up with another mom. J was done by 10am. She said there were 2 intense classes (ballet and modern) and the director asked them each a question. Callbacks are mailed to the kids in January. It was fun, she said, and then we were off to LaGuardia.

It was only 10 and J's callback was for 1pm, so we had 3 hours to kill. We had coffee and bagels at Dunkin Donuts, stopped in a couple of stores, and still made the 11 block walk to LaG by 10:45. We went in, went up to the cafeteria, and met up with some dance moms from J's studio who had their first auditions there at 8am (it goes by last name and all 4 of J's friends are at the other end of the alphabet, lol). Finally at 12:30 (which took forever to come), J went up to the dance room. This time she didn't return until 4pm. She said it was harder than the first audition. She also did her 1-minute solo piece she's been working on since October. It was nervewracking having to perform in front of the 20 other callbacks, but she gave it her all.

Now we wait 2-3 months. Then we'll know which high school J will be going to.

We got right on the train down the block and were back in Queens by 4:45. B and W met us at the station. I jumped in the driver's seat, dropped off the family, and zipped over to work by 5:30pm. By the time I got home at 10pm (after picking up K at her friend's house) I was truly exhausted. I am running on fumes at the moment and I'm about to fall

Saturday, December 05, 2009



Not only has NYC been voted the safest, friendliest, pet-friendliest, most exciting city with the best restaurants and cultural experiences, but now...



Friday, December 04, 2009

December in NYC

This morning W had a Zoo School class at the Central Park Zoo. It was a nice day and the subway took about 12 minutes. I always overestimate how much time it will take, so we were there 45 minutes early, lol. These classes at the zoo are so wonderful. The staff, the exhibits, and the topics are always great. W was in the 7-10 year-old group and they learned all about "Earth's Biodiversity". They spent part of their time in a classroom of sorts and the rest of the time in the zoo's Rainforest. We parents met up with the kids there as they were scrambling around trying to find examples of different rodents, birds, frogs, and reptiles throughout the rainforest to write down on their worksheets. In the rainforest area, you get to walk around among all the animals and birds. It does make a difference seeing them without glass separating them from you.

After the class, we decided to wander around Midtown for a bit. It is full-on tourist season here in NYC and such a fun time of year. Our first stop was F.A.O. Schwarz, that big toy store on 58th Street. The toy soldiers stand outside greeting all the guests and taking pictures with them. Inside, the kids got to be a part of a bunch of toy demonstrations and a magic show. They change things aroung every year and there were a lot of areas we hadn't see before like New Moon, Harry Potter, and Muppets.

We also decided to meet B at work, so on the way was Rockefeller Center and the big NYC Christmas Tree. It was just lit this week. We grabbed some hot dogs and Gatorades on the way over. After a few pics of the tree, the kids spent the next 1/2 hour in Nintendo World. In order these are: Cartier's, St. Patrick's Cathedral, the tree at Rockefeller Center, and Nintendo World. Click on some to make them bigger.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Game Time

The kids and I went to this fantastic place in the West Village yesterday with the homeschool group. It was an incredibly huge space with so much for the kids to do. There were about 10 pool tables, 3 ping-pong tables, 3 table shuffleboard games, foosball, and tons of tables for chess and scrabble. W tried just about everything and had so much fun. Many of his friends were there and he also met a few new kids. J was so happy to see a good number of kids her age there. She spent the majority of the time playing pool with new friends.

It's all laid out using space really efficiently. There was a huge bar being tended by some awesome staff and lights are kept real low which just added to the whole NYC feel to it. There must have been about 50 of us there and it wasn't crowded at all. I love that they opened the place to homeschoolers before-hours. The owners are actually excited to have us there! The best part is that it was only a 20-minute subway ride away - oh, and the West Village is beautiful. It's mainly residential with tons of small restaurants. Real bohemian - a haven for artists, musicians, and writers. The kids and I are really looking forward to next time.

Monday, November 30, 2009

My Favorite Time of Year

We put up our Christmas lights yesterday. Ok, B put up the lights. He gets his creativity on around the holidays. Soon he'll be making homemade ornaments and wreaths and baking up a storm. I do the shopping, the Christmas cards, and the inside decorations. This is the first year we got the outside decorations up before December 1st.

Thanksgiving was lovely as usual. We spent it out at my parent's house in Long Island. Both of my sisters were there too, along with a BIL, a fiance, a niece, and a nephew. As usual there was way too much food and we took lots home to eat all week. Everyone around the table gave thanks for something special in their lives as we all held hands. I think it's great to have a holiday that's all about being thankful for what you have in your life - topped off with a great feast celebrating family and friends.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sweet Sixteen

K is sixteen years old today. I cannot believe how the time flew by.

K celebrated her birthday on Friday. Her "theme" was black-and-white, so that's what everyone wore. K wore RED. Her dress was a gorgeous red satin, with silver rhinestoned strappy heels, and a silver rhinestoned tiara placed within her salon-styled, upswept and curled hair. The invitations were black and white and K tied a small red ribbon through every one. A huge party bus (which was also black and white) met us at the park overlooking the water and Manhattan's skyline. My mom, sis, BIL-to-be, husb, K, and I filled the bus with balloons (black, white, and red), food, and decorations. K and some early show-uppers wrote all over the outside and inside windows. The bus was like a gigantic limo inside. There was a 42" tv, a $10,000 sound system, a bathroom, a strobe light, and a driver who is at your beck and call for 7 hours. K filled 3 iPods with music and her best friend made an awesome photo slideshow with K's baby pics and other photos from the last 3 years - which looked great on the big tv.

Twenty-Eight of K's friends helped her celebrate (my sis and her fiance chaperoned). They drove around Manhattan and the first stop was Times Square. The kids all got out of the bus and ran around the area for about a half-hour. Tourists were taking pics of the bus and the kids, Reggae street drummers banged out an awesome "Happy Birthday", and the kids took tons of pictures.

The next stop was the South Street Seaport. Again the kids got out to wander around (it so pretty there), then congregate back around a beautiful 3-tiered stand of red velvet cupcakes - each with a candle - to sing Happy Birthday to K. My sis made them, along with chocolate-dipped strawberries.

Everyone had a great time. They were back in Queens by 11:30 and all the kids were picked up by midnight.

The rest of K's weekend consisted of 2 sleepovers and going to see New Moon.

At school it's Spirit Week and today is "Clash Day", so K and her friends are wearing footie pajamas with Uggs and t-shirts.

K is also wearing her tiara. :)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Audition #2

J had her second high school dance audition this morning. This one was at Laguardia School of the Arts. This is the school that the movie "Fame" was based on in 1980 - and again in 2009 (but the newer movie makes it more of a fictitious setting in NYC). It's extrememly prestigious, full of famous alum (Al Pacino and Jennifer Aniston went there and tons of others), and it's extrememly competitive. Over 10,000 kids try out and their acceptance rate is about 8%.  For dancers it's about 4%.

We woke up at 5:30am and were out of the house by 6:45am. We got there in about 15 minutes since B drove us right to the door. We waited briefly on an incredibly long line and then went in. Right away I saw the sign that said parents to the right, students to the left. Aaaak. I wasn't ready to say goodbye yet. Did she have her paperwork? Her snacks? Her water? Her ballet shoes? It didn't matter anymore. She blew me a kiss, waved goodbye and I told her to break a leg (then I re-thought that remark, lol). The parents (all of whom were feeling the effects of the abrupt send-off) took several escalators to the 5th-floor cafeteria, where we could have coffee, muffins, bagels, a welcoming speech from the parent coordinator, a Q& A session, and just...wait.

I brought a book, but ended up in excited conversations with several other parents. We all discussed the schools, the auditions, and the craziness of it all. A mom with a violin student from the upper east side was weighing her other schooling options. A mom and dad with a viola student had an older son already in the school, but were still nervous. They raved about the music program and said their son never stops talking about how great it is. A drama student's mom was also from Queens (like me) and looked so anxious as this was her only child. A friend of mine was also there. Her daughter was going for dance as well. We chatted for a long time and then turned to see the fine arts students (carrying huge portfolios) who just ended their auditions meet up with their parents. We saw the instrumentalists (carrying their instrument cases) also come in. It seemed that dance and drama took the longest time. My eyes were glued to the doorway. I couldn't wait to see her and hear all about it.

Finally, after over 2 hours, I saw J. She looked so calm, but as she got closer to me, her smile widened and she handed me the paper which said she has a callback audition in 2 weeks. WOW! J said about 6 kids got a callback sheet (out of the 25 in her group). Although it is possible to still make it into the school without a callback, the majority of those not called-back will not be accepted. If you watch So You Think You Can Dance auditions, I'm calling this the "Yes to choreography". She will take a more intense ballet class, a more intense modern class, perform her 1-minute solo piece, and be intensely judged. She can't wait. There isn't a bit of nervousness or anxiety in her at all. She's just loving the whole experience.

As we walked to the subway I looked around in awe. It's amazing enough that we are coming out of the Fame school - to top it off, right around the corner we were in front of

It was a gorgeously warm autumn day. The entire area was just breathtaking. I feel so grateful to live in this city of endless opportunities. There is NOTHING like NYC.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Peek Into Our Academic Morning

I love mornings that flow well, like today's did. After breakfast, J did 2 Life of Fred chapters. She does the math chapters independently and we do the "bridge" together (like 2-3 times a month). At the same time, W did lesson 10 in his Teaching Textbooks (Math 5). Today was all about estimating and rounding. He zipped through it in about 15 minutes. I love how this program keeps reviewing all the stuff from the previous lessons. After math I read a Walter de la Mare poem out loud. It was called "November" and we talked about how sad it sounded. Then the kids did some copywork. J wrote out "the Song of Hiawatha" by Longfellow and W copied all of Georgie Porgie from the Mother Goose book. He did the whole thing in cursive - in his notebook this time, not on the dry-erase shelf. Mother Goose is perfect for him since he knows the rhymes and says them in his head as he writes them out. It's really helping his reading (along with his penmanship and grammar).

We went right into LiveMocha and the kids felt like learning some French today. Je suis un garcon, tu es une fille. It was fun and I like how LiveMocha goes right from nouns to sentences and lets you make your own connections regarding the grammar rules. After French, we listened to "Autumn" from Vivaldi's Four Seasons. W has been noticing Vivaldi's music wherever we go. He perks right up and says, "Hey, ma, that's Vivaldi!". We had it on the whole time we ate some snacks. Then J went to go read a chapter in Island of the Blue Dolphins. W and I read some Burges Animal Book and Understood Betsy. Everyone did brief, but fantastic narrations.

We were finished with everything by noon.

As for myself, I am getting organized. I rejoined Flylady to get back in good cleaning mode. I also started making dinner right in the early afternoon. I make the whole thing, then put it in corningware dishes and into the fridge. Then I stick it in the oven at 5:30pm (right before I leave for work) on 250 degrees so it's all hot by the time B gets home at 6. I just started doing this, so we'll see how well it goes over.

Monday, November 16, 2009


W got to be a part of a great new program at the Hall of Science. They are usually closed on Mondays, but opened today to give workshops to homeschooled kids! They had 3 classes - one for each age group (K-2nd, 3rd-5th, and 6th-8th grades). W's class was called The Eyes Have It and was all about 3D perception and optical illusions. We also watched another cow's eye dissection and all the kids got to just hang out and explore. W loved the new exhibit on sound. It will probably be there only for a couple more months. I'm glad we get to go back next month and do it again! It was amazing to have the whole place full of homeschoolers. It was such a huge difference between today and being there with all the schooled kids. It was so wonderfully quiet. The kids were respectful, well behaved, and really enjoyed the workshops.

Monday, November 09, 2009

So the audition went well. J was in the last group of kids, so she didn't get out of there until after 2pm. Six hours. She said it was great and the wait wasn't so bad. She was with a couple of friends and the time flew by. One down, 2 to go.

W took his first quiz. TT5 gives you a quiz after the first 7 lessons. W was so excited about it. He called B to tell him that he's taking his first quiz ever, lol. There were 24 math problems to do and he got only 1 wrong - and that's only because he rushed the answer. I was so proud of him. The first 7 lessons were:

1- Number patterns, even/odd
2- Place value to the hundred thousands
3- Writing numbers in words (and vice-versa) to the hundred thousands
4- Place value and writing numbers in words to the hundred millions
5- Greater than/Less than (large numbers)
6- Addition basics (sum, commutative property, addends, identity property)
7- Subtraction basics (difference, using addition to check answer)

He enjoys this program immensely. In other academic news, today's copywork was writing out a Christmas wish-list using a toy catalogue, and today's readings were Understood Betsy, The Little Duke, and Farmer Boy. His narrations just keep getting better and better.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Audition #1

This morning is J's first performing arts high school audition.

I didn't think I'd be as nervous for her as I am. I followed her around the house, just being there if she needed help getting ready, but she didn't. She looked beautiful in her leotard and tights with her hair perfectly slicked back and pinned a bun - and so grown up.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Lotsa Good Stuff

K had off today for Election Day. She met up with a couple of friends this morning and they headed into Manhattan to be in the audience for the Alexa Chung show on MTV. K loves that show and is excited to see it live. I saw her several times in the audience (having DVR'd the episode). She was in awe to see Lady Gaga and the cast of Glee (one of her favorite shows).

Halloween was fun this year. One of K's best friends is cousins with a celebrity singer (I promised I wouldn't mention names) and they hung out with him and his fiancee on Halloween. K met him before and he's really sweet. K's friend's mom was with them, too, trick-or-treating with another little cousin. He got recognized in the restaurant they stopped in and they were all given the royal treatment by the staff. K was loving it. Then they all went back to his house and the girls sang a few songs in his recording studio.

J had a sleepover the night before Halloween and she and her friend went out trick-or-treating with the little siblings. B and W met up with them and all ended up with a nice stash of candy.

W is loving his new math program. TT5 seems to be perfect for him. He's asking to do 1 or 2 lessons a day. He also just got a reading program called Hooked on Phonics Master Reader. It's a dvd program full of fun activities to help older children read better (ages 7-11). He loved it. The Ambleside readings are moving slowly. He can really only listen to 3 or 4 pages of something at a time, so it can take 2 weeks sometimes to get through 1 week of readings. It's ok, though. He's getting so much from these classic books, that I don't care how long we take reading them.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Busy Busy Busy

There is just so much happening here. K's 16th birthday is coming up. She is making list after list preparing for her party. She is having a party bus with about 25 of her closest friends (and my sister there to chaperone). I'm still in the process of finding a photgrapher and doing damage-control on the mess Party City made of her invitations (they are now being redone and will be ready Saturday. This, after I not so nicely or in a ladylike manner expressed my unhappiness over finding out that our order of white cards with black writing came in as dark pink and orange cards with black writing. How do you get "we need white" wrong?).

This Tuesday is J's Confirmation retreat - an all-day gathering and reflection of faith. Her Confirmation is next Saturday. She has chosen my mom as her sponsor. She's had 4 weeks of preparation classes this year (as well as all of last year's CCD classes). We were going to have a party for her, but have settled on a nice family dinner instead since she has an audition the following morning. Her dance solo for this year is finished and all that's left is some clean-up. It is 2 minutes and 30 seconds long, but a 1 minute portion will be used for auditions. this piece falls into the "Modern" category and is a very different style than any of her other solos. She's always done bouncy, cutesy jazz and musical theater numbers. This is a more mature piece that really shows her passion and strength. J has also chosen a new vocal piece and will get started on vocal training soon. Costumes are already being ordered and made for this years competitions. J will be competing with 9 numbers (2 solos and 7 groups). She's excited for this year's comp season where she makes the big transition from the junior category (which she's been in since she was 9) to the teen category. She's going to a Halloween party tonight (and was at one last week as well).

W is very active with cub scouts and dance. He'll eventually start basketball. The league he was in conflicts with his Sunday CCD right now. His weekday mornings are full of readings, fun workbook pages, lots of dry-erase writing, and finally his TT5 came! He's been doing a lesson a day since it came and loves it a LOT. I'm trying to make art study, composer study, and nature study a regular thing, but boy is that hard. I keep thinking it has to be more complicated than it really is. That's why I love reading A Charlotte Mason Companion (Andreola). She reminds you how just exposure to these things is enough and that kids will make their own connections. So I have the beautiful Sanzio artwork displayed around the dining room. I play bits of Ralph Vaughan Williams' music throughout the day (on And I make a point to get at least a little nature study discussion in when we're out. The journaling and sketching we'll get to one day.

My wonderful husband B has now been at his new job for about a month now. He was freelancing there for about 6 weeks before they hired him full-time. He was out of work for almost 6 months, but thankfully we are back on our feet again. His band has a gig in Tribeca in about a month and I'm really trying to actually get to see this one. As for me, I'm keeping sane. Work is great. It's fun and pays just a little too well for how much I enjoy it. I consider work my "me time". It's 4 quiet, easy, mellow evening hours that come just at the right time for me after a day of running around.

I do love our fun, busy lives. We're so fortunate and grateful to live in this city of so much opportunity. There will be plenty of time to relax when I'm old, lol.

Friday, October 23, 2009

High School

Dh, J, and I went on a couple of high school open houses this week. J liked one, loved the other and now knows what her mainstream first choice will be. My mom came along as well - she's awesome, and I love having her input (she just notices things that I don't). J will be going to high school. If not a performing arts school, then one of the focused high schools - maybe where K goes, maybe not. I do want to say that the NYC homeschool guidance counselor is terrific. She mailed us everything we need (and even filled it out for us) and when I expressed a bit of nervousness on the phone, she said not to worry and that she'll be with me every step of the way. Very impressed. Auditions start in 2 weeks.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Ok, so after more than 3 years I have gone and changed the blog template - and a bunch of other things. I like it.

What do you think?


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Cub Scout Camp, YEAH!

The boys just got back from camping with the scouts. They left on Friday afternoon and got back tonight. They normally stay til Sunday morning, but both W and J have CCD in the morning. W had such a great time. Friday night was barbecue, roasted marshmallows, and running around with friends. Today was a day full of activities. W did some BB gun shooting, went on a hayride, played on a big pirate ship, decorated pumpkins, and played a ton of games. It was supposed to be a rainy weekend, but it was perfect.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

3rd Grade Update

Things are going great so far with W's academics. I cannot believe how much he enjoys everything we're doing. With our AO readings, all of a sudden, he decided to take notes as I read. He uses the dry-erase shelf and writes down names, dates, and events. He erases them when we move onto something else, but just the act of writing things down helps him remember what we read. I was so impressed that he thought to do that on his own. Our readings this week included An Island Story, Understood Betsy, The Little Duke, and Tree in the Trail.

Another thing he's having a lot of fun with is homophones (words that sound exactly the same but have different meanings and spellings). He did a couple of pages of these earlier in the week and thinks these are so cool. He wrote out a bunch of them (on the dry-erase shelf) and gave me sentences for each to show me he knew which word meant what. Throughout the day, he came up with other homophones - and was so proud of himself.

W also just wrote his first story! It was about Halloween. It had a beginning, middle, and an end, had correct punctuation and capitalization, and was entertaining. Apart from a few run-on sentences and some misspellings, it was perfect. I had never given him a writing lesson or told him how a story is supposed to be set up. I was just thinking about writing and realized I had no idea if W knew about composition. So, I told him I was in the mood to read a great story, maybe about Halloween. Then I added, "You wanna write one for me?". Wow, was he excited and got right to it. It was done on the shelf and I only wish I took a picture of it.

Other adacemics this week included talking about Sanzio's paintings, reasons for dinosaur extinction, the 4x table, and various independent reading. W's reading and spelling has improved tremendously since we started a more multi-sensoral learning approach. All he sees is that we're just having a lot of fun. I'm trying to use what I've read to help him the best I can. He is technically on grade level for reading and writing, but I worry that progress may hit another plateau (or a wall). I've read that many teenage and adult dyslexics remain stuck at a 2nd-3rd grade reading level. I do think W has an advantage being homeschooled since I'm providing him with one-on-one help, I use only what works, and I do constant research to find out what else I can be doing with him. Overall, though, I know he'll be fine.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Bieber at the Plaza

I took J and W to Rockefeller Plaza this morning to see Justin Bieber sing a few songs on The Today Show. We got up at around 4:30am and was on the subway by 5:30am. The F-train left us right down the block from the line. This line was ridiculously long and full of preteens/teens with huge posters, loud voices, and half-asleep/coffee guzzling parents. We forgot to print out "fan passes" and were slotted towards the back of the crowd by the stage. Oh wait, that's right, there WAS NO STAGE. This little 5' tall 15-y/o singer was performing on ground level. If you weren't in the first or second layer of kids, you weren't able to see anything.

We were in about the 40th layer.

We still had fun, though. The crowd was pumped, the kids and parents were fairly tolerable, and J loved every second of it. Just being 20 feet away from her super-crush was enough for her, lol. We were on camera a few times - I DVR'd the show and caught us jumping and waving in the crowd (I'm glad I wore a red sweatshirt). Poor W. He's not a big fan of the Biebster, and only came along for the ride. This is hard for an 8y/o boy. You will be standing for at least 4 hours and you cannot move from your spot - this means no bathroom runs, no grabbing a quick bagel, and yes, your legs will feel like jelly after the 2nd hour.

We stopped in the Nintendo store at about 9:15ish when Bieber had officially "left the building". I figured it was the least I could do for W. He wandered around playing some DS and some Wii while J and I just....sat. It was grand.

We hopped onto the F-train right down the block and got home in about 15 minutes. I swung by the house to pick up K (who opted out of this morning's adventure) and I took all 3 kids out for breakfast. All of us conked out for the rest of the afternoon. I gotta hand it to those moms and kids who do this all the time.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Apple Festival

B, W, and I went to the Apple Festival here in Queens today. It was cute. They had lots of food, stuff for the kids to make, the world's largest apple cobbler, animals to pet and feed, hayrides, and the corn maze (or the "maize" maze). We checked out their assortment of pumpkins, apples, pies, and homemade crafts but weren't loving anything enough to buy it. It was a beautiful day for walking around the farm.

Saturday, October 03, 2009


B took W to a NY Mets game today. It was "Trick-or-Treat Bag Day" and all the kids got a bag. There was also lots of activities for the kids, like a batting tee and a dunk tank. They were thisclose to being in the Jumbo-tron, but missed it by one person over. All the kids there were able to run the bases at the end of the game, with the parents meeting them at home plate, but it started raining half-way through the game. Since that literally put a damper on things, W had enough and was ready to come home. I picked them up by the 7 train and saw that W not only got a trick-or-treat bag, but a small Mets bat, and a sheet of baseball cards. He thought the new CitiField was awesome.


On Friday W was begging to do more phonics flash cards (I know. WTH?, LOL), so we grabbed the dry-erase shelf, some markers and got to it. We finished all the sight word cards (172 words!) and started on the phonics set. These have one word on one side and the other side has 2-4 other words with the same letter combinations (like eight, weigh, and sleigh). He wrote each word a few times, then made sentences out of them. He knows most of the words on the cards, but the continued practice of saying and writing them out are important for him to retain them. He definitely remembers them when he sees them in books he reads. Not to mention he just loves this activity.

We read some Burgess Animal Book and watched a video of Pilgrim's Progess (part 1 of 9). Math is still from The Complete Book of Math (haven't gotten the TT5 yet) and he did a lot of basic multiplication up to 12x. He's very good with arithmetic, "gets" multiplication and division, and has memorized much of the table.

J did 3 LoF chapters and a bridge (an LoF recap of previous chapters). She also did 2 chapters in the Barron's Life Science book. I love that she's at an age where she's taking the initiative to get work done. I think she spent over an hour working on the science. J is very focused and prefers to stick with one or 2 subjects, rather than jump around to many different things. One day she'll do just math and science, and the next she'll spen an hour reading a book, and the next would be history and writing. Having control over what she does and when she does it causes her to enjoy it and put her heart into it. I love that.

Thursday, October 01, 2009


Yesterday's homeschool group Geography Club was all about England. We made cheese and chive scones for the English pot luck. W kneaded and rolled out the dough, grated the cheese, cut the chives, cut out rounds, and brushed them with milk. They came out really good. W is a natural in the kitchen, just like his dad. They were a pretty big hit, too! Other families brought teas, chicken tikka, homemade toffee, crackers and cheese, fish & chips with malt vinegar, and scones with currants.

W wrote out a whole notebook page of information on English sports. He glued 4 large pictures to all sides of a manila folder to show the audience. He went on the small stage and read his report out loud to everyone and showed his pictures. I was so proud of him. Last year we stopped doing the geography club because W was a little self-conscious about his reading. But this year, he's has so much more confidence in himself.

After all the food and all the presentations, it was a perfect time for chess, while all the moms chatted.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Botany and Peanuts

W went to a class on George Washington Carver at the Queens Botanical Garden yesterday. It was a full house with almost 50 homeschoolers divided into a younger and older group. They started out in a classroom and then walked around the garden discussing various plants and trees. They planted their own peanuts, too. W remembered a lot of what he learned. He also spent a good deal of time before the class running aroung the grassy hills with his friends. He's excited to go back again next month for another class.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Happy Autumn!

So far, so good with AmbOn2. We are reading An Island Story, Child's History of the World, Tales From Shakespeare, The Little Duke, The Burgess Animal Book, Tree in the Trail, Pilgrim's Progress, Understood Betsy, and Mr. Popper's Penguins so far. W is enjoying them all, but really loves the history stories. We're learning about the Duke of Normandy, The Battle of Hastings, and the Dark/Middle Ages. We're also learning about mammals, insects, and invertebrates. W is reviewing 3- and 4-digit subtraction before taking the big plunge into multiplication and division. We read poems every day and he still prefers the daily copywork to be in cursive. We have been learning about Raffaello Sanzio, how to understand and make a floor plan, and how "ph" and "gh" can sound like F. He has an outside class and his first Cub Scout meeting of the season this Friday.

J is reading Little Women, doing some pre-algebra review, revisiting early American History, and has just started on Life Science (biochemistry) this week. Writing will soon become more regular as well. She has 10 hours scheduled at the dance studio this week with a guest choreographer - who comes in from California twice a year or so to work with the kids. Next week she'll be starting a piece for her school auditions and she's still trying to come up with a vocal selection for this season's competitions. Things are moving so quickly this year.

Happy Autumn!!!

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Let me tell you why I'm loving The Complete Pokemon Pocket Guide. It's a whole phonics, vocabulary, and language arts curriculum. The main thing is that just about all of the Pokemon names are nonsense words that have to be either sounded out or figured out using phonics rules.

You have names like "Metapod" and "Onix", that are sound-outable.

Then there are "Machop", "Machoke", and "Machamp" (the stages of one pokemon in various stages of his evolution) that use more phonetic rules.

Then there's "Hoothoot" (a compound word of sorts) that evolves into "Noctowl" - which led to a discussion of the Latin root "noct" meaning night. Lots of pokemon names use Latin and Greek root words.

One pokemon is named "Ditto" because he can change into other pokemon at will.

The seahorse-looking pokemon is named "Horsea". I like the word reversal. W got a kick out of that one.

"Charmander", "Charmeleon", and "Charizard" are the evolutionary names of a lizard-like pokemon. Notice the endings are from different lizards.

And how "Caterpie" evolves into "Metapod" and then "Butterfree". Get it?

Another cool thing is how some pokemon names sound like other words, like: "Raticate", "Empoleon", and "Masquerain" that describe the particular pokemon. Vocabulary words everywhere.

Each page has the name, picture, type, abilities, height, weight, and evolutionary line of each pokemon. The back has an alphabetical list of all pokemon in both pocket-guide volumes.

Recently, W has been looking at these books pretty often. He not only enjoys reading it, but it helps him make so many connections. I say, if your kid likes Pokemon, encourage that interest and you'll more than likely be surprised at all the learning in all of it. :)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Reptile Adventure

Yesterday, we got together with the homeschool group for a really cool reptile demonstration. Eric of "Eric's Reptile Edventure" is an enthusiastic, overly-caffeinated, true reptile master and the kids loved him. He had a bunch of animals with him: pythons, lizards, frogs, turtles, an alligator, and hissing cockroaches (that he kept under his hat). He brought some frozen rodents and we watched them get eaten, which was fascinating to see up close. We all got to touch everything, too. I know W learned a lot - he loves this stuff.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


J went to see Shrek the Musical tonight on Broadway. Her friend Bec's family got 4 tickets and J was lucky enough to be invited. I dropped her off at the dance studio at 4pm. She's back assistant teaching her 7-9 y/o class. Bec's family picked her up there at 5pm and drove into Manhattan for the show. This was J's very first Broadway show. She's gone to shows at Radio City, but it's not the same. B, K, and I have seen a lot of Broadway shows (back in the good ol' days when B used to get comp tix) and I'm so grateful that J finally got to go too. She said it was truly amazing. Sutton Foster played Fiona and has now become one of J's favorite people, lol. I am going to try to start making Broadway theater (and all theater) more a part of our lives.