Sunday, January 25, 2009

Dance Kid

We just got back from a full day of J's first dance competition of the season. She did 5 numbers: contemporary group, tap group, open group, musical theater solo, and vocal solo. The rankings were high bronze, silver, high silver, gold, and high gold. Her musical theater dance solo scored a gold. Her vocal solo scored a high gold and ranked 3rd solo overall in her level (which included all "middle-level" junior dance and vocal solos - levels are based on years of experience). All her group numbers won high gold (highest ranking given) and one won for best costume. It was an amazing day. I finally saw all the new numbers and was floored by just about all of them.

W hung out with 3 or 4 of his friends (all boys 6-9 years old) and we hardly knew he was there. K sat with her best dance friends and after the junior awards went over another friend's house til about 10pm. My mom drove in from Long Island to watch J's new solos and groups and was crying with me during the singing and while hearing the awards. J's vocal coach has done an amazing job with her. Everyone couldn't belive how much she's grown vocally. She's also grown physically - there's a 4" difference in her from this time last year, putting her at about 5'2" now. It's scary when your kid almost catches up to you in height! K and I are almost even now.

J's set and awards were done by 6:30pm. B went out and got us some dinner and we stayed and watched the older kids compete til about 11pm. J spent the evening with about 10 of her best friends. I love how she's so close with them all. Boys, girls, she considers them all equal best friends (since they were 7). These kids are so wonderful, so supportive, so encouraging, and such real friends, that I'm proud to know them and their families.

J's also been hinting more and more that she would like to go to a performing arts high school. There are a bunch here in NYC, but she knows which 2 she prefers. She'll audition next year and then we'll just see what happens. She realizes she may need to step up the academics to be considered and she's prepared to do that. I'll go along with whatever she chooses. I'm torn on the whole idea, but it's not really up to me. I'll do what I need to to get her where she wants to go. She has one year before the decision has to be made. It's so hard to let go.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Trusting the Process

Last night W was talking about making cinnamon rolls with B and said the following: "We'll probably make 20 at once, in 2 batches, so that's 40 cinnamon rolls. See? I just added the 2s together and the zeros, so I know it's 40. Speaking of math, can we do math now? I'm in the mood for it." So we ended up doing a few math pages in his workbook together. The one thing I love about Charlotte Mason and the AmblesideOnline curriculum is how well it goes hand-in-hand with unschooling. It's such a gentle schedule with fun and interesting readings and activities. They love it so much. I enjoy it with them. And seeing how it really fosters their love of learning is amazing to me. I'll keep at it as long as they keep asking for it.

I so believe that when kids get to choose their educational path (and overall life paths) they are just happier, love learning, and love life. Whether they choose no curriculum, some curriculum, a full curriculum, or a brick and mortar school building, it's the choice, the trust, and the respect that make all the difference in the world. Learning is everywhere and kids take in what they need at that time. If they need more, they seek it (which in turn produces a purer, deeper understanding and overall outcome).

J is choosing to read more on her own now and loves classic literature and poetry. She's making web shows, puts 110% into her dancing, and has more (real) friends and social life than anyone else her age that I know. I don't think she needs scheduled academics in her life, but she prefers to. She's the type who likes to surpass (or at the very least, keep up with) her grade level. Even K, who goes to public school, does well because she chooses to be there and enjoys the game that is school. When she's out with her friends, she knows I trust her to make good decisions - and she hasn't let me down. And then you have W, who wants to know about everything in the world and takes his time with all of it. At almost 8 he's finally decided that reading will actually get him places and so he now reads every day. All subjects fascinate him, but I purposely try not to separate his learning into individual "subjects". It is difficult since this separate-ness tends to be almost everywhere. Thankfully, the AO schedule we printed out is just a list of the readings and we're free to say it's all one big subject if we so choose, lol (although technically it can be broken down if I need to for reporting purposes).

So, yeah. Even though we may not look like an unschooling family from the outside, I will always be an unschooling parent in my heart and in my beliefs - following the philosophy, having the trust and respect, and being the facilitator and provider of what my children choose to have in their lives. All this with no need for coercion, demands, expectations, punishments, or bribes. We live an amazing life.

Now I just need to find others like us, lol...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Yesterday, W went to his monthly book club. The book was "Peppe the Lamplighter", which is about an Italian immigrant family living in downtown NYC. It's a beautiful story with beautiful pictures. The book club had about 5-6 kids and they talked about the book - plot, setting, characters, etc. Then they made a cool project - a big street map of Little Italy. W cut out Peppe's streetlamps and wrote up the map legend. It came out really nice and W had fun with it. I have to give kudos to the mom running it. She's so full of great ideas and knows how to get the kids involved and excited about reading.

Today we went to the Children's Museum of the Arts in Soho. It's a cute little hole-in-the-wall place with so much going on inside! The main floor has different sections set up where kids can just sit and do an art project. J started out at the "still life" area, drawing some fruit that was on the table. W played with a tub of "flubber" and tried doing a self-portrait (a table set up with paper, oil pastels, and tabletop mirrors). Downstairs was set up for "Homeschooler Fridays".
Homeschoolers get a 20% discount on Fridays and have their own classes. Admission is $8 per person or you can get a full year membership for $200 and go anytime. Today they had the first of the weekly claymation classes. About 5 or 6 kids were there, each got their own slab of clay and got to try both the animation and the computer program which takes the pictures and plays the film. I found it fascinating and the instructor taught us a lot. In another room on the lower level there was a drumming class.
The kids bounced back and forth between the 2 rooms. The class was being led by 2 guys who were teaching techniques for bongo-type drums and others, including upside-down milk cartons played with drumsticks. Good music was coming out of there after a while, lol. After more than 2 hours we had to get the train back to Queens for J to make it to dance. It's so great to know that there's a place just for homeschoolers to learn and have fun.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The AO schedule is still working out great for the kids. I have to say, I'm pretty surprised that we've been with it so long. I truly thought the kids would have gotten uninterested in it by now. W is doing so well, that we're just soaring through everything. He learns new concepts and retains so much history and science that it blows my mind. Math is his favorite and he will do 4-5 pages a day in the workbook without prompting. J enjoys the history and literature readings, loves the poetry and dictation exercises, and tolerates math. She seems to prefer the math workbooks rather than the Teaching Textbooks program at the moment. She always did like workbooks - from like 2 years old. No matter what we use we always end up back to the workbooks, lol.

J's first competition is in 9 days! She'll be debuting her brand new dance and vocal solos. She's also in about 6 group numbers - 3 are going out at this comp. B and I are in a costume and rhinestoning frenzy. It's definitely fun, though. The costumes are stunningly beautiful this year, as usual. The first competition of the season is probably my favorite. It's the first time we get to see all the numbers, on stage, in full costume - and I always tend to get all teary-eyed (and not just at my own kid, lol). Dance has been great for her this year. She takes ballet, tap, musical theater, acro, jazz technique, and contemporary. Her voice lessons are once a week and she assistant teaches beginner ballet and tap for 7 year-olds. She loves being so busy. She's even going to check out what volunteer work she can in the area.

B's band is playing on Saturday night in the East Village. I'm trying to see who can watch the kids so I can go. I haven't been to one of his shows in ages. I think the last time was when I was pregnant with J. UGH.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Tenement Museum

Today we went on a fabulous homeschool group trip to the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side. 97 Orchard Street is a tenement apartment building built in 1863 and was home to about 7000 families until 1935. These were immigrant families that had come to America through Ellis Island. They came from Russia, Poland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, etc. Our tour today was the 3-room apartment once lived in by the Confino family. An actress portraying Victoria Confino showed us around the apartment, told us all about how life was then, and answered our many questions. She was a Sephardic Jew from Turkey (then it was still the Ottoman Empire) and there were 10 people in her family all living in those 3 rooms. It was so fascinating to see the brilliant use of space and to hear how there was still so much joy even though it was harsh times. The rooms are kept just as they were almost 100 years ago - with many of the same pieces of furniture, cooking utensils, and wallpaper. It was like going back in time. The museum has other tours based on some of the other real families who lived in the building.

We learned how much of the food they ate was bought from the street pushcarts. The Kosher food was bought in the grocery stores. The girls in Victoria's family didn't go to school after 6th ot 7th grade and a husband was chosen for them around the age of 16. Fun was had at the dance halls where Victoria had recently learned the foxtrot and she even played us a record on her victrolla.

I had been meaning to get to the Tenement Museum for years. It was as great as I thought. I think the kids really had fun and I'm sure they learned a lot. W got a book today called "Peppe the Lamplighter" which is about an Italian family who lives in a tenement in Little Italy. It's for his book club next week. I'm so loving this topic because my grandmother was one of 13 kids living in Manhattan around the time of the Depression. Now I have to find out where and how they lived.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Our first day back at the schedule went really really well. J seems happier with her new books. She was much more "into" these readings and gave great narrations. She started the morning with some grammar and math review then we did a few readings together. W is still going strong. He starts with phonics and math and then we do a few readings after that. We started a bit late this morning, so we didn't get to to the timeline stuff we planned. We'll try that tomorrow.