Monday, March 30, 2009

Prospect Park Zoo

Today, W went to the first of a series of classes at the Prospect Park Zoo. He and about 11 other kids had a wonderful time learning about animal adaptation. They saw which covering (fur, feathers, or scales) keeps water temperature the warmest - which would be comparable to which keeps an animal's body the warmest. They looked at different animal skulls, talked about its characteristics, and guessed what they were. They also got to pet a blue-tongued skink. The class is for 2nd to 6th grades and W loved seeing some of his friends there. The instructor was fabulous and really knew how to reach the kids. Even though it's set up a bit like "school", it's very relaxed, interactive, and so interesting. All the kids were eager to answer questions and volunteer. She couldn't believe that everyone's hand went up when she asked about the eating habits of a polar bear or how a porcupine uses its quills for defense. I was so impressed at how much they knew. We had never been to this zoo before. I'm glad we get to keep going for the next few weeks!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Random Weekend

W spent much of the weekend at the park - tag, cops & robbers, and basketball are his usual games there. He finally found his skateboard (we left it at my mom's, oops) and he's ready to learn some more moves with that. There are a couple of kids on our block and in the park around his age who skateboard, and I can tell he wants to join in. Other parts of his weekend included the Friday cub scouts, Sunday CCD, and suit shopping for his First Holy Communion in 5 weeks. We're having no luck with that yet. MIL offered to buy it, so we're heading out to one more store this morning.

He decided to make a list of his favorite things to do and keep it out so he can remember to do them, lol. This includes bike riding, skateboarding, gardening, going out to cool places, playing Wii, and cooking. It also includes science stuff (nature walks, readings, experiments, etc), math workbook, reading his books (alone, silently), readalouds like Paddle to the Sea and Aesop's Fables, and copywork. The academic stuff he wants to keep doing in the mornings.

J had dance rehearsal on Friday for a couple of hours and then a sleepover. On Saturday she had 2 birthday parties: one at a restaurant at 2pm, and the other was a house party at 7pm (to midnight!!). And Sunday she was webcamming with her friends all day. She's still figuring out a schedule for herself. I'm curious to see what she does. She has another party this Friday and another competition this weekend as well.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Worm Composting

Yesterday W and I went down to the Lower East Side to a worm composting workshop. We met up with about 20 families at the Mulberry Street library. One of the moms read us all a story about recycling. A woman from the LES Ecology Center came and talked all about recycling, composting, organic material, living/nonliving things, and worms, of course. The kids were great. They were all eager to answer questions and were very into the topic. She sprayed all the kids' hands with water and they all got to hold some worms. Each child also got his own mini composting bin. They ripped old newspaper pages into strips, wet them, wrung them out hard, and lined their bins with it. Then 3 or 4 worms were placed in everyone's bin. All we have to do is feed it something a couple times a week and keep it away from too much heat or cold. Since compost is basically worm poo, it's starts being made right away. I think we'll try growing some vegetables this year in containers in the backyard. We used to grow peppers, zucchini, and herbs years ago. I think we should do it again.

A few more books are disappearing from our AO schedule. And the AO schedule has been disappearing too, lol. J decided she wants to create her own schedule, using most of the workbooks and some of the reading books she uses now. I know she prefers more control over how she utilizes her time so I'm kind of surprised she went along with a pre-set schedule for this long. I'll see if W would like to continue with (the perpetually shrinking) AO schedule or make his own like J. I'm thinking the latter would be way more fun for him. Then again, he may not even want a schedule. It's all good. The kids have been learning so much lately - even more now that the weather is better and we can hit the city. I'm looking forward to a fabulous spring.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Competition Fever

We spent the weekend at a hotel in New Jersey for J's dance competition. She did 3 solos on Friday, 2 group numbers on Saturday, and 4 group numbers on Sunday. NINE numbers - the most she's ever done at one comp. The scoring for this comp (from lowest to highest) was Honorable Mention, Bronze, Silver, Elite Silver, Gold, Elite Gold, Platinum, and Platinum Plus. Here are her scores for this weekend ("Open" means the dance style falls into more than one category. "Production" means it usually includes a combination of different-aged teams from one studio):

Jazz Solo - PLATINUM - 2nd place in category
Musical Theater Solo - PLATINUM - 3rd place in category
Vocal Solo - PLATINUM PLUS - 1st place in category
Lyrical Small Group - PLATINUM - 1st place in category, 5th place overall (out of over 40 small group numbers)
Open Small Group - PLATINUM
Tap Small Group - PLATINUM
Open Large Group - PLATINUM
Open Large Group - PLATINUM PLUS - Best Costume Award
Production Large Group - PLATINUM - Most Entertaining Award

J (and only about 15 others out over 100 solos that night) was selected for something called "Power Pak" which is the competition's own touring group of dancers. It's similar to the other performance team ("Team Rave") she was on a few years ago. Basically for $$ you spend a week with them taking master classes, doing various activities, and performing. As wonderful as it sounds, I couldn't get another week off (I already have a week off for Nationals) and the price is fairly outrageous. But she feels honored to have been chosen based on her solo performance.

The hotel was nice and J bounced around to all her friends' different rooms. She went to the mall with them one day and out to eat another. The competition venue was a local tech high school that had a really nice auditorium. Dressing rooms were 2 flights down - which kinda sucked, especially for me with my rac n roll costume trunk. But it all worked out great.

W had a great time out in Long Island with my parents. He went out for breakfast, bowling, to the movies, to dinner, played with his cousins and the neighbors, and just had such a better time than if he had come with us. He gets so bored at J's competitions and feels obligated to play with the other little brothers who aren't nice kids at all. I'm finding that a lot of traditionally-schooled kids (boys mainly) W's age (up to like 11yo) have something they feel they need to prove to their peers, try way too hard to look cool in front of others, and feel good about acting as nasty as they can and laughing about it. I saw so much of that at the competition this weekend. Thankfully W sees right though that, although he does give too much "benefit of the doubt" in my opinion. I love that W has an incredible sense of self with no pretense or showing off. He is such a good person, with his head and his heart always in the right place. I sometimes wonder if he had stayed in school, would he be just like these other boys? Thankfully I'll never know.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bayside Historical Society

W went on a cool trip to the Bayside Historical Society in Queens. The area called Willets Point was bought by the US Army in 1857 and they built Fort Totten. It was used by the military for over a hundred years for so many different purposes (army hospital, training base, underwater technology testing area, and in 1944 it was named headquarters of the North Atlantic region of the Air Transport Command. It finally closed in 1995. The Society's mission is to preserve the rich history of the Fort and the surrounding area of Bayside. Yesterday they conducted a living history class based in 1906. The girls got to wear long dresses, hats and gloves and the boys got to put on sailor suits, complete with neckerchief and knickers (W preferred to remain in his jeans, thank you). They kids ate finger sandwiches (I wonder whose fingers they used, hah hah hah) and chose their own tea bags for tea. W remembered a lot of what was said and really enjoyed it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


As much as we love AmblesideOnline, I will admit we have been dropping some of the scheduled readings. First we dropped all the religious ones. My kids have plenty of outside religious instruction already - don't need it. We've also dropped some books with somewhat disturbing religious undertones. Sorry, don't need that, thankyouverymuch. Then there are some books that are just so uninteresting, that I see no reason to continue with them. I dropped 2 like that from J's list, and may drop 1 from W's list. I'm proud of myself that I've loosened up enough to change pre-set things around to suit our needs. It is OK to mix in more contemporary books - even a bit of twaddle, gasp! - among all the classic stuff. Also, it states right on AO's introduction page that "Parents may use as much or as little of the booklists and schedules as they like". I've gotten over that feeling of "blasphemy". Feels good. :)

J has another competition this weekend. This is gonna be a biggie. It may be the one who's Nationals we're doing. W will stay at my mom's for the weekend and B, K, J, and I will be heading out to NJ early Friday afternoon. J has all 3 solos on Friday evening. Her five group numbers go on Saturday and Sunday. We're still stoning costumes and buying shoes and last minute supplies, but the hotel is booked and it seems the comp schedule gives J enough time for outfit changes. 2 new group numbers are going out this weekend and I'm so excited to see how they look.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

W's Weekend

It was Pinewood Derby Day at cub scouts yesterday. B and W made an awesome car out of a block of wood, some wheels, and some paint. The race was great! The Tiger and Wolf dens raced together. There were at least 20 contestants. W was undefeated for 10 races until there were only 2 cars left - his and Noah's. It was tense. It was exciting. And then it was over. Noah beat him twice and won the trophy. Then the Bears raced, then the Webelos. The 3 winners went up against each other for the final round. The ultimate winner got the nice trophy and bragging rights for another year. W was very pleased with his 2nd place finish. I was proud of him for being proud. Inside though I wanted to scream and throw things. So close, ugh, so close. We'll get 'em next year.

This morning W celebrated his first Sacrament of Reconciliation. We got to the church by 11, had a short mass, and about 30 kids got in line to get some sins off their chest and says some prayers for penance. W was so nervous about it, but afterwards said it was easy. He memorized the entire new modernized Act of Contrition and was proud to tell it to the priest. This is the precursor to the next Sacrament - First Holy Communion - in May. MIL offered to buy his suit, so I need to start looking for a nice one. We're off to my mom's tomorrow for W's birthday.