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.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


We had a great class at the Beczaz Center on the Hudson River again. This one was called "The Great Water Mix-Up". There were discussions on the river's salinity levels and pollution. The kids each were given a salinity meter (plastic, looks like a scale), filled it with water and observed the reading. There were samples of salt water, fresh water, and brackish water and they had to guess which was which based on the reading. The reading determined how many grams of salt were in every 1000mL of water (0 to 7 is fresh, 8-26 is brackish, and 27-35 is salt). Then the kids formed 4 groups. Each group was a company created to clean up polluted water. They were each given play money, a list of supplies to choose from, and a large cylinder of polluted water. This water (Beczak created) was polluted with oil, dirt, and chemicals - just like real bodies of water. The kids had to figure out which supplies to buy that would work best in cleaning up their sample. J's team bought a pipet, some cottonballs, and a screen. W's team bought a bottle of fresh water, a screen, and a funnel. It was hysterical watching them all come up with their own methods.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Starting Off Busy

W started his academics this morning by reading a few pages of Sam the Sea Cow to me. Then I read the first chapter of Tree in the Trail to him and he did a great narration. He loves that book already. Poetry was next - and it was an autumn poem in a big book of poems compiled by Walter de la Mare. The schedule says to read poems BY him, not compiled by him, so I'll have to print out a bunch I find online. That segued into copywork, which was a nice Mother Goose rhyme. These are full of big words not often used, so it helps him with spelling and vocabulary. I also wrote out the poem, hung it up, and will use that one for a dictation exercise on Friday. After that, I read half a chapter of The Little Duke to W and again he narrated what he remembered. I love listening to him. Then he did 2 pages in his grammar workbook. The first page was a review of compound words. A lot of times I'll just have him tell me the answers instead of him having to write them down. He prefers some pages that way. It definitely eliminates any tedium. The next page was like a game where he had to follow clues to find the right words. Artist study was all about Raphael Sanzio. We looked at all the paintings we'll study this term and read a quick bio. It's interesting how he is starting to come up with his own take on certain paintings. He seems to undestand what characters are portrayed and thinks about why it's significant. I'm looking forward more of this with him. Finally he did a few math problems in his workbook. This was a review of 3-digit plus 3-digit addition. We haven't purchased TT5 yet, so he's just using books for now.

J started her academics today by reading Little Women snuggled up in my bed. It's still a chore getting her to read anything at all, but she's drawn to classic literature and picked this one herself. She then read a poem out loud and wrote it out for copywork. After that, we picked up the American History book (that I really really enjoy) and read a chapter together. Soon she'll start doing written narrations on the history, lit, and science we read together. Painless Grammar was next and we discussed more parts of speech. This is just review for her, but these are good things to remember - like prepositional phrases, uses of the conjunction, and how so many words qualify as adverbs. Then we did some Life of Fred. She loves math now, btw. I'm so glad I bought a bunch of those books. J spent the afternoon with friends at the park. The new season of dance classes starts tomorrow. This should be a fun year.

K's first day was good. Her schedule is great. They're doing a Spirit Week soon, since their plans of it last spring were cut short by the swine flu closing. She already joined a fundraising committee and plans to rake in as much money as possible so they can do all these things as seniors. It's funny to me that they have to start this in junior year. She's happy there and I feel it's a nice fit for her.

I think we're starting off well. All the kids liked their first day. Lets just hope it stays that way!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Year Begun

It was a fantastic week. J did go to her friend's summer bungalow for a few days. It's a tight-knit Long Island community on the beach where everybody knows everybody, kids are everywhere, and fun activities are going on all the time. There was a masquerade, talent show, basketball games, swimming in the on-site pool, going to the beach, and running around barefoot with about a dozen new friends. I spent every summer about 1/4 mile down the road from J's friend, in a similar development. Such a small world! W has been at the park every day still. He loves it so much. We vary between 2 different playgrounds, each with a different atmosphere. I prefer the one down the block. He has been practicing his skateboard and ripstick and is getting really good at both. Lots of skateboarders are around and W learns from them. They bring some wooden ramps to do tricks on and W cautiously takes a turn, too. K starts school tomorrow. She's excited for a new year.

I'm excited, too. My homeschoolers will have a busier year than usual. AmbOn2 is jam-packed with great stuff. J's eclectic schedule is what she says will get her into "school mode". W has lots of classes and trips already scheduled for autumn and into winter - starting this Friday. J prefers doing her own thing rather than join any homeschool group events, but I'm sure she'll participate in a few. NYC is teeming with things for teens to do. I have dozens of things bookmarked for her already.

Here's to a new year!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Year Over

W and I will be reading "The White Cat" in The Blue Fairy Book today. This is our last reading for AmbOn1. We start Year 2 on September 9th. Year 1 was fantastic. We read so many beautiful stories and W's reading, vocabulary, writing, reasoning, critical thinking, and storytelling improved immensely over the past year. He was sad to see our large, red Aesop's Fables book be done with. And he really enjoyed reading about King Harald in Viking Tales. That will also be missed.

The rest of this week will just focus on W reading aloud and silently from books of his choice. I'll make a word wall of the words he misses. He'll then take those words and either write them a bunch of times or makes sentences out of them - all on his dry-erase shelf. He's mastered all of the sight-word flash cards but didn't want that to end. Actually, he would pretend to miss words just so he could continue to write them, lol. So when I told him there were tons of words in his books we could use, he was thrilled. We'll also start reading Mr. Popper's Penguins. It's on his AmbOn2 free reading list and it happens to be the book that will be discussed at this month's book club. W's calendar is already getting full with this year's homeschool group classes and trips.

Other than that, we're taking it easy this week. J may spend a few days out at her friend's summer house. K and I may go clothes shopping. K starts school on the 9th. She's going to be a junior and we have to look at more colleges this year. J's school auditions are coming up in a few months and I have to make sure I have all the correct paperwork that goes along with that. B has been freelancing since last week - hopefully this will turn into something full time. This has been the first nibble of a job since March. I'm feeling hopeful.

The weather has been almost chilly in NYC this week. I'm loving that autumn is just about here. My birthday is in 6 days. I'm turning 40. Sigh.