Friday, July 31, 2009

Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary & Audubon Center

Great trip today with the homeschooling group to the Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary & Audubon Center in Long Island. The class was on the American Indian way of life. There were trails there that were kept intact from 300 years ago. The instructor had a nice fire going the whole time and the kids got to make corn meal cakes that the Indians used to bring with them on long journeys. We discussed and were shown deerskin, arrows, spears, corn husk and turtle shell toys, and some tools found on that land. Each child also got pieces of red clay that when wet and rubbed together make paint. Those are found all over Long Island and I used to play with them as a child. We called them "Indian rocks". Then the kids got to use a bow, a dowel, and pieces of wood to simulate making fire. Without kindling a fire couldn't actually happen, but smoke does! We then went on a hike and were told about certain plants and trees that American Indians made good use of.

W and I also visited the cemetery next door. It's very very old and so happens to be where Theodore Roosevelt was buried. W was creeped out at first, but enjoyed it after a few minutes. The groundskeeper was a nice old man who used to be a history teacher. He told us lots about the area, the cemetery, and his grandkids, lol.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Just Thinking Out Loud

I've been reflecting on a few things today as I sit with the kids and discuss with them what the new school year will look like. Sometimes I like to take a step back and analyze my thoughts. :

I believe that "child-led" works. It allows the kids to "own" their learning and makes them want to do the best they can in all they do, since it's their idea.

I'm enjoying that my children asked for a structured, scheduled educational path, as it does make things a bit easier to keep track of what they're learning. And in NY, we do need to stay on top of that.

The 3 years with no curriculum worked very well, though, but none of my children like their days to be all spontaneous and carefree (I know they inherited that trait from me, lol). J would create her own schedules for her days (and help W with his) which would include lots of academic stuff (workbooks and websites), crafts, piano, outdoor time, and museum visits. It was fun, but she eventually needed (and requested my help in finding) more than that. Now with high school right around the corner, J wants to be very prepared, so she helped put together a nice schedule for this coming school year.

W likes to do what J does and likes the idea of structured academics, too.

W feels better about himself when he can see his own learning progress. He sometimes didn't feel he was as smart as other kids his age until we started using a curriculum. (I don't know why he felt that way - could have been the taunting from his cousin and hearing what his friends were learning in school)

I'm very glad we found AmblesideOnline. Charlotte Mason was a genius, imo. The fun activities (nature study, history timeline, creative narrations, etc) and classic readings mesh so well with the kids' interests. They retain just about everything and often want to pursue topics/people further. It also goes incredibly well with my relaxed, unschooly self. It's the most gentle, enjoyable, stress-free way of learning I've ever come across.

Other than that, the kids are keeping so busy this summer. Lots of outdoor time, friends, movies, shopping, swimming, dancing, new theater group, water guns, K's fantastic job, making videos, biking, etc. Life is oh so good.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


So yesterday B and I took the younger kids to audition for a show at a nearby performing arts center. It's a 2-week intensive culminating in 2 Saturday shows. They needed to sing and talk a bit about themselves. I decided against providing our own music since both kids can stay on key with acapella (I usually stay up all night burning & editing CDs). J had no nervousness at all. She went in alone, did her thing, and came out very nonchalant, as if she does this every day. W, on the other hand, was very nervous. He was so excited over the last 2 weeks and couldn't wait for this audition. The night before we went over several songs including "Where Is Love", and "Ben". He was worried about learning all the words to these, so he decided on "Amazing Grace" with its 5 lines of verse. He has a really great singing voice (who knew?) and I was confident for him.

At the last minute (i.e. we're at the place and 3 minutes away from his turn to audition) he decides Ben would be the best choice. We did a quick review and off he went. Thankfully, we got to go in the room with him. It was a large room with 2 people at a table with clipboards and stern faces. B and I found our way to the back. W was asked what he was going to sing and he said, "Ben, by Michael Jackson". They liked that. He sang the whole first verse with power and new-found belief in himself. Then he was asked about his singing and dance experience, but kept referring back to J ("no, but my sister did!") LOL. He did finally tell them about his musical theater and hip hop classes from the last 4 years. They said "thank you" and we left. We are supposed to hear from them this week.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Back to Life, Back to Reality

After the week away, we have our week of relaxing, lol. Well, the kids never seem to relax. W is still going to the playground every day. He hangs with friends, rides his bike, and plays basketball. We got a little bit of academics done this week. Both of us want to finish the Year 1 schedule before September so we can start Year 2. The rest of the summer will be just the readings/narrations, some foreign language, artist and composer study, and timeline stuff - just because W thinks it's fun. Oh and probably math, too. He can't keep away from math. It all still remains child-led and relaxed - he wouldn't have it any other way. His newest thing is grabbing a book, finding a comfy spot, and reading! He's enjoying The Magic Treehouse series and Diary of a Wimpy Kid now. Cool beans!

K is back at work. She still loves it and takes it very seriously. She's never late and always stays late to help clean. She's saving most of her money - for a car. I'm incredibly proud of her diligence - and generosity! She's so happy to buy things for her siblings. It's nice that she has the means now to indulge her own high standards of taste, lol. Mani-pedis, designer bags, clothes, shoes, etc. All of a sudden she's being more cautious, more selective, and has more self-control. It's amazing what your own money does for you, lol.

J has had nonstop hang-out requests since she's been home. She was at one friend's house all day Monday swimming in her pool. Wednesday she was with another friend at the park and her house. Friday she and another friend slept over another girl's house and went to Splish Splash (water park) the next day. Today she's at my mom's house in Long Island, meeting up with another friend who will be coming over there to spend the day. Tuesday and Thursday J had summer dance intensive classes and I strongly suggested staying home and relaxing during the day so she could be well-rested. Next week Wednesday will be included too - this is another dance intensive, plus the new studio performance tap team she's on. She and W will be doing something new during the day starting the first week of August. I'm not going to say what it is yet since I'm not sure about the details - but it's an incredibly opportunity...

Work is going very well for me. I'm now 100% sales - no more collections or retention, which I've been doing for the last 3 years. It was scary to make such a big change, but now that I've got the hang of it, it's really FUN. Let's hope it stays that way, lol.

I received a call the other morning from a "summer-help" person at the Office of Homeschooling. She asked if I would please send in a copy of J's CAT results. This is new. I usually just write a line on the annual stating she took the test and scored above the 33rd %ile. So, I'm sending in a copy. Thankfully, the Seton folks emailed me a PDF and I can make as many copies as I like. Well, all things considered, the state is pretty good at leaving us alone - this isn't a big deal. Soon I'll mail in the IHIPs and Metrocard forms.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Great Week at Nationals!

We got to Pennsylvania on Tuesday afternoon. The rooms were nice - the girls had their own room and my parents had one as well. They all had balconies that overlooked the pool and playground (that's the picture on the left). Again, the best part about Nationals is getting to spend a week with your best friends in the world. The kids swam, had a sleepover, went to Hershey Park, went to a dance workshop convention, ate at restaurants, and performed amazingly together. They danced every day starting Wednesday evening with prequalifications. These are the numbers they're doing at nationals that weren't done at this comp's regional. So those need to be judged separately, then performed again on its slotted day. In this competition, the awards you can get are: Bronze, High Bronze, Silver, High Silver, Gold, and High Gold - based on the judges composite scores. Thursday was junior solo day. J scored Gold on all 3 of her solo's. After her vocal solo the director of the entire competition was all teary and sniffly. He told J that he remembered her when she was 7 and he couldn't believe how grown up she was now. Friday was Junior group day. J's 3 junior groups were Contemporary, Lyrical, and Tap. They received 2 High Golds and a Gold. Saturday was the Junior convention/workshop. The kids got there at around 7am and had 4 hours of master classes in Contemporary, Jazz, and Musical Theater. The master teachers are professional dancers - one was in the top 4 of season 2 of So You Think You Can Dance. In Musical Theater they broke the kids up into 5 groups. There were over 100 kids in each group. After they learned the big routine, J was chosen to represent her group and dance alone. That was exciting.

Sunday was Senior group numbers. Even though J is a Junior competitor, she dances with Seniors (over 13 y/o) from her studio, so the number is considered "Senior". They did "open" (mix of various dance styles), Hip-Hop production ("production" means it includes most or all of your comp team with various age levels. J has 6 on her junior team, but more than 30 from the studio in these production numbers), and Tap production. These numbers scored 2 High Golds and a Gold. The Open Senior number won best costume (out of over 1000 numbers!) and was one of 11 numbers chosen for a choreography showcase (they cam in 3rd place). The Tap production won a special entertainment award. The judges were incredibly tough scorers this whole week. I'm so proud of J, her studio, and her dance teachers. What a week!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Off to Nationals!!!!

Today's the day. We're heading out in a few hours for J's dance nationals. The competition starts tomorrow and goes through to Sunday. So excited! The family can't wait to leave! This is going to be a big one - she's 12 and it's her last year as a "junior" competitor. Next season she will be considered "teen". `snif

See you in a week!

Thursday, July 02, 2009


W has picked up the reading bug again.

At 4 he could read all the BOB books, Hop on Pop, and the Starfall stories. Then he hit a plateau for 3 years. Then he flew forward once we started with AO. He never really enjoyed reading, but would do it for me - which I knew wasn't helping matters. He decided that today instead of doing his grammar page, he would just read a book. After 2 pages, he declared, "Wow, I love this book!". It's hard for me to know exactly how well he reads. He prefers to read silently, with only an occasional, "what does this word say?". I do know he is on "grade level" (whatever, if any, meaning that has). I'm not worried in the least, but I wish he understood how cool the world becomes once you can pick up any book and read it. It looks like he's starting to realize that.