Saturday, June 27, 2009

Beczac and Book Club

W and I went to a class at the Beczac Environmental Education Center in Yonkers on Friday. This one was all about marshes. Again, the Hudson River view along with the Palisades across the river were really gorgeous. The instructor talked about tides and how land pollution is brought into the river and will be carried all the way down to the Atlantic Ocean. The kids got to see how this works using their 5' river & land model. They poured water from the Adirondack Mountains and watched it come up onto the land, and how the tides keep everything flowing - north and south. We then walked down to the river to see the high tide and look for water chestnut seed pods, which reminded me of gargoyle heads.

After that class, we headed over to W's monthly book club meeting (ages 7-9). This month's story was "Little House in the Big Woods". We had been reading that already and were thrilled to hear it was on the schedule for June. W has learned how to really listen to a story now and does a fabulous job with narrations. The difference between September and June is really amazing. Good narrations are supposed to be the precursor to excellent composition skills, so we'll see. We're also just starting with multiplication. He couldn't wait for that to start. He totally gets it and feels like such a math whiz, lol. Every day he prefers to do more sample lessons from the TT website. We're running out of them, lol. I better get the new program soon. He wants to start it right away. Isn't it funny how much he loves math? I hated it at his age (and up until college). I remember the endless drills and tests and how miserable they made it. Then an hour of homework every night - 25 crappy boring problems - that was so unecessary. Boy do I hope my kids realize how good they got it, lol!

I Love NY!

Just caught an article stating that " conducted a survey of 3,400 Americans, asking them their opinions about various cities. The result may or may not surprise you: Everyone loves New York..."

I'm so digging that NYC came up as the #1 favorite. I say it all the time. This place is unbelievable. And as I've also said before, homeschooling here is the best. I try to convey the experiences we have with photos and descriptions, but the whole atmosphere just cannot be explained in words. Everyone has to visit this city at least once in their lives.

The article goes on to say, "My favorite part of this survey:
Friendliest and Most Helpful: New York City
Least Friendly and Helpful: New York City
Ah, sweet paradox. I will forever argue that New Yorker's aren't mean, they're just fast. Almost everyone in New York will be happy to help you if you bottom-line your question."

Ok, yes. That is very very true. "Bottom-line" your question. Basically if you have a question or need directions, get right to the point and say what you got to say. We do not have time for break-the-ice chit-chat or your whole backstory. We are not rude here, we're just impatient and prefer you get right to the point.


Here's a fun video:
NYC - 10 Things You Need to Know

Thursday, June 25, 2009


And I've done it. All the books for AO Year 2 are in my possession. I'm still waiting for D'Aulaire's Abraham Lincoln, which should be here in a few days. The workbooks on the bottom of the picture are from "The Complete Book of..." series, which ds loves and we'll use to supplement. The last thing I'm buying the the TT Math 5 which ds is dying for. We did a bunch of sample lessons online and he's so into it. That costs about $120. The AO books came to a total (after tax and shipping) of $144. So W's total for the AO books, math program, and supplemental workbooks comes to about $265. Woohoo! The only other stuff I buy is the sale stuff from the Target and Staples back-to-school weeks in August. That comes to another $50 or so - for both W and J. (10 notebooks for $1, $.25 glue and crayons, packs of pens and pencils for $.50 - love that).

So, even though J enjoyed Teaching Textbooks, I realized that she's way more drawn to actual books, not the computer, when it comes to learning. I just purchased the first 4 Life of Fred books for her. Those are right up her alley and she's excited about them. J did extremely well on her CAT (standardized test) but more review of the basics will only help her in high school. The books are "Fractions", "Decimals & Percents", "Beginning Algebra", and "Advanced Algebra". All 4 of these came out to about $100 less than the TT program. J decided she wants to listen in on W's Year 2readings - she loved what she caught of the Year 1 stuff - and wants to try doing written narrations based on the readings. She'll have her own booklist of classics to read throughout the year as well. J's total cost for the year's academic stuff will be about $150. Maybe I'll splurge and get the kids nice nature notebooks this year, too.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Queens Botanical Garden

We had a really nice homeschool group class at the Queens Botanical Garden on Friday. The class was called "Plants in the Lives of the First Americans". It started out in a classroom adjacent to a small greenhouse. The instructor talked about the First Americans (American Indians) and how they used their environment to live in their world. He talked about wigwams, longhouses, birch bark canoes, maple syrup, food staples (like the "three sisters" - corn, beans, and squash), and picture symbols. The kids, as usual, were full of questions and answers. Then we went outside to walk along the garden paths. As we passed various plants, trees, and flowers, the instructor explained what they were and what they were used for. Many were for food, others for medicine, others used for shelter and transportation.
The culmination of the class was foraging for wild greens to make a salad. The kids were shown different plants like chickweed and wild strawberries and told to go off and find some. They also got to taste cool looking flowers and leaves. We got back to the classroom with all the stuff we picked. The kids ripped up the leaves and the instructor added sunflower seeds, corn, and a dressing he made out of sunflower oil, cider vinegar (the first Americans made their vinegar out of crabapples), and maple syrup. We all got a plate of salad, and it was actually pretty good!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The NY Hall of Science

We decided to head on over to the Hall of Science this morning. It was a spur-of-the-moment idea that I half-whispered to B, yet W yelled YES! from 2 rooms away. I swear that kid's got bat ears. So we got there around 11am. It's been a while since we'd been there and I don't even remember ever going with B, so we were all excited. We saw a new exhibit called "Charlie and the Kiwi" about a boy who isn't sure that a kiwi is really a bird, so he travels back in time (picking up his great x 4 ornithologist grandfather in 1880) to 150 million years ago. Then to 100 and then 50 million years ago where we see how dinosaurs evolved into birds. Then we saw how birds kept evolving to suit their environment, bringing us to the kiwi, who can't fly and has whiskers. We watched a cow eye dissection - W was again full of questions with that. He leaned in real close to get a good look at all the real juicy parts, lol. Downstairs we made huge bubbles and way upstairs we did some wheelchair racing and armwrestled with kids in a science center in another state. It was nice and empty today, too.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Life, Curriculum, and other Miscellany

It's Friday. The week just flew by...again. K is done with school next week - just 2 regents exams the following week. I can't believe summer is already here.

J took her standardized test last week. Now we're just waiting for the results. Then I'll send in the paperwork and it starts all over again. I'm sure she did well on the test. I just don't believe a test like that can even attempt to show what my kid knows. It's all bs and no one really cares how well they do anyway. I tell J that it's just a formality we have to endure so the people in the office can add another checkmark to her file. She doesn't worry about it. And for that I'm glad.

W and I went to the Queens County Farm Museum this morning. We went with the homeschool group and W loved it. We went on a hayride, visited and learned about all the farm animals, made some butter, and planted radish seeds (that we took home and W fully intends to see these actually grow into radishes). A mother duck just hatched about 10 ducklings yesterday and they were jumping out of the tree "crook" where the nest was, hit the ground (unharmed, oddly enough) and formed a group by their mother while waiting for the others to arrive. They were so adorable, yellow, and fuzzy. I love that farm - especially since it's only 10 minutes from my house! Thanks G for a great trip.

This evening W had an award ceremony for cub scouts. He earned a camping badge, a fishing badge, and a few other ones. It was so nice. They had a slideshow going of all the activities and places they went throughout the year and dinner for everyone. W enjoyed hanging with his friends and getting his badges. This is a great pack/troop of kids. 2 are becoming Eagle scouts this year.

J has been out with a friend all day. They hung out at the house, then at the park, then stopped at the school to see another friend's graduation ceremony, then over to the mall. I wonder if I had all that energy at 12 years old, lol. Tomorrow J is performing at a piano recital - she was asked to dance her musical theater solo. A mom of a girl J dances with teaches piano, voice, and flute and asked 5 dancers (her dd's friends) to do their solos. J is excited to have been asked and is looking forward to it.

I'm waiting for the last shipment of books for AO Yr2. I got a bunch on paperbackswap for free last month and the rest on amazon. Some used, some new. I think I've spent about $140 total so far. He wants the new Teaching Textbooks Math 3. It's supposed to come out in the fall. I almost would prefer the cheap workbook route we've been using. I find elementary math very easy to teach. Does he really need a $100+ program? I mean, not only are 3rd (and 4th to 8th) grade math concepts pretty cut-and-dry, but that kind of math is EVERYWHERE and can be learned completely in context. So, I'm still mulling that one over. We were also thinking about continuing with the Live Mocha Spanish and the Outdoor Hour Challenges (at for our nature study. These are FREE to use and W likes them a lot.

J decided she wants TT-PreAlgebra, some classic literature, to do the nature studies with W and me, and a writing program. So I looked at various things with her and she seemed to like Writing Strands. Other things she's thinking about include labwork at the science center, classes at history and art museums, and continuing being the assistant teacher to her "babies" at the dance studio. She wants to be fully prepared for high school if she's accepted.

Both kids have chosen their own curriculum. They have interests, have things they enjoy, things they want to learn, and I facilitate as best I can. They both told me straight out they prefer a schedule and it is my job to research with them what looks good. They each spend less than 2 hours each morning on the academic seatwork, but endless hours exploring their world and pursuing their interests. Throw in the abundant myriad of classes, trips, and outings we do throughout the year in this incredible cultural mecca that is New York City and how can any other education compare?

Monday, June 08, 2009


Another great camping and fishing weekend away with the cub scouts. B drove up with W on Friday evening. They had dinner and W ran around with all his friends for hours. They slept in a lean-to with their sleeping bags and thankfully it was nice and cool out. Last year, it was so hot. Saturday was spent fishing. B bought W a new pole, but he didn't catch anything this time. W loves fishing and we really have to go a lot more this summer. They also played baseball, roasted marshmallows, and played a huge game of manhunt. On Sunday morning they ate breakfast, packed up, and were home by noon.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Central Park Zoo

W went to another Central Park Zoo School class on Monday. This was was called "Head for Home" and was about the unique relationships between animals and their habitats. B brought him in for this and they got to explore the zoo again. This time I remembered to give him the camera!

This is the famous Central Park Delacourt Music clock. From 8:00 am — 5:00 pm on the hour and half-hour, one of 26 nursery rhyme tunes plays while a bear with tambourine, a hippopotamus with violin, a goat with pan pipes, a kangaroo and offspring with horns, and a penguin with drum glide around the base of the clock. In addition, on the hour two monkeys on the top of the clock appear to strike a bell.

Here's a polar bear coming over to say hi. It's Gus, born in 1985 and living here since 1988 with his buddy Ida.

B and W came across this squirrel who came over to see if they had anything to eat. He even jumped up onto the bench next to them. Even the squirrels in NYC are fearless and streetwise, lol

Here is J in the "pit" leading her kids class at the recital rehearsal last week: