Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Six years ago today I wrote my first blog post. 

Can't believe J was only 8 then.  K was 11.  W was 3. 

We've come a helluva long way. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010


We are having a fantastic December.  W is getting so much reading, writing, and math done.  He decided that he wanted to try Spanish again, so while at Costco last week I found this knock-off, Rosetta-Stone-like program on sale for $18.  It comes with a bunch of CD Roms and you can record yourself saying the words.  It's fun and he likes it so far.   We're half-way through TT5 math now - right on track to finish it by the end of 4th grade in June (then we're doing TT7 from the beginning of 5th grade to the end of 6th grade).  I find that it's best for us to stretch out the math.  W retains it better that way as he isn't inundated with too many new math concepts each month.  We do math 3-4 times a week (sometimes once or twice a week - December slows us down a bit, lol).  The schedule that W made has been working well - actually better than anything I came up with. 

W had a party and awards ceremony at Cub Scouts this month, too.   He was presented with a bunch of patches and badges he's earned over the last half-year.   In addition to the patches in the picture below, his 4 activity badges were:  Citizen, Readyman, Outdoorsman, & Artist badges.  He got a patch, pocketknife pledge card, and badge for the Whittling Chip.  The badge states that W "has earned the right to carry a pocketknife to designated Cub Scout functions", because he demonstrated knowledge and skill in its use and completed the safety requirements and promises to abide by the Knives Are Not Toys guidelines.  He's proud of that one the most, I think.  We also got our Pinewood Derby car to build for the big race in a few months.   This is such a wonderful pack and troop of scouts.   

W's New Cub Scout Patches

We have also been going to the pool hall in the West Village every week.  I'm so glad it's that time of year again!  For a few hours W gets to play games with friends and moms get to relax and chat and listen to some good jazz music - usually being played by various bands who use the space to rehearse.  It's a dark, gritty, oh-so-cool atmosphere that just drips the essence of New York City out of its walls.  W and I really look forward to this every week.

W and Friend Playing Pool

As I mention every year, NYC is the most incredible place to be at Christmastime.  The kids and I decided to walk around the mall in the Time Warner Building at Columbus Circle.  This is where we were a few years ago when we watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade go by.  For Christmas they have these beautiful hanging stars that light up to the beat of the Christmas carols being played.  The kids loved it.

Christmas Stars in the Time Warner Building

K, J, & W under the Christmas stars reflected in the window

A Tree in Columbus Circle

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ballet & Modern

Today, parents got to observe dance classes at LaGuardia High School.  I watched all 3 hours of J's classes and was in awe.  There are 33 kids in her dance class.  They started with an hour-and-a-half of ballet - first stretches, then exercises (at the barre and the floor), then combinations.  The next class was an hour-and-a-half of modern (Graham).  This was a bunch of different floor stretches and across the floor combinations.  It was just beautiful to watch.   Live music in the dance classes add so much to the whole atmosphere.  The dance teachers and piano players are really in tune with each other.  I don't know how they do it, but the timing is always spot on.  Sometimes they just play piano, others they'll have a bongo drum with it.
The children are so focused and determined and the teachers are so incredibly aware of each child.  I noticed eager hands up to answer questions and to volunteer a demonstration.  They are treated like professionals and in turn, they act as such.  What a wonderful treat to get to see this kind of training in action. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010


LaGuardia High School has their annual musical going on this month.  Hairspray opened Thursday and is scheduled for 8 shows - a longer run than usual.  The LaGuardia Concert Hall seats 1100 people.  Ticket pre-sales (online) filled up more than 90% of all 8 shows.  Add that to the amount of walk-in ticket-buyers and yes, all 8 shows will be sold-out.  We all went on Friday (the 5 of us and my mom).  I cannot even begin to tell you how impressed I was.  I have seen tons of Broadway shows and this was right up there with those.  The sets, and the acting, singing, and dancing were unbelievable.  Costumes and sets are all done by the tech and art majors.  The orchestra from the pit was fabulous as well.  I had tears in my eyes after every number, mostly because I was so grateful and proud that my J goes to this amazing school, but also because all this talent is coming from 15-17 year-olds.  This isn't like any high school play anyone has ever seen.  Wow.

Guess who's visited the school over the last few months:  Adrien Grenier, Madonna, Ellenore Scott, and a few famous classical musicians.

Saturday, December 04, 2010


Today, W felt like creating a daily schedule.  We always just use the AO weekly one, doing whatever it is we feel like each day, as long as everything on the list gets checked off by the end of the week.  W wanted more structure with that, so he came up with a workable plan for each day. It's interesting that every time we tend to veer toward less structure, W is the one to turn that right around.  Hey, he likes a strict schedule, what can I say?

So, one day a week is for all the extras:  Artist, Composer, Nature, Foreign Language (right now it's Spanish), & Dictation.  Another day has 5 AO readings along with some Spelling workbook.  And the other 3 days of the week include:  Math, Spelling, 1 AO reading, 1 Free reading (we're doing Hans Christan Anderson stories now), Poetry, & Copywork. 

Almost all the AO readings go hand-in-hand with an oral narration.  We haven't started written ones yet, but we will soon.  And every day also includes a "read-to-me" time.  W's reading is so good now and I believe it's the daily practice that keeps him on track.  He alternates between an AO free reading and his own book to use as his read-aloud. 

Dictation is something he would like to do every day.  It's like the spelling "tests" we used to do - he loves that kind of a challenge.  The other day we decided that instead of a literature or poetry dictation exercise, we could do try it with states and capitals.  It was great!   I took 5 state flashcards and went over the capitals with him.  Then I gave him the 5 cards and told him he had 3 minutes to look them over.  Then I took the cards back and read the name of the state and the capital and he had to write them down with correct spelling and capitalization.  Learning the capitals of each state is not the point of this exercise, but it happens anyway.

I'm looking forward to finishing up Yr 2.  We'll finish by January, but maybe not til the end of January.  Not sure yet.  I really don't want to rush through the readings, so we're just going to continue taking our time and enjoying it.   The Year 2 readings are technically for 2nd-4th grades, but they seem way harder and more advanced than anything I've ever seen for 4th grade.  So, we'll shoot for Yr 3 starting January 31 (it's a Monday).  The curriculum is not season-based, so you can start any time of the year.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Holiday Season!

This year for Thanksgiving we went OUT to eat.  In my 40+ years on this earth, my family has never strayed from the big home-cooked Thanksgiving.  But my mom decided she did not want to spend hours preparing and cooking and cleaning.  She wanted to actually be able to sit and eat with no worries.  I was so happy about this.  We reserved seats at the East Wind Caterers Thanksgiving Day Buffet.  Definitely worth doing at least once in your life.

We got back to my Mom's house before 5.  She had stocked up on what she calls "pickins" - cheese, crackers, rolled cold cuts, hot chocolate, cookie dough to bake, etc.  And by about 7-8pm we were all a little hungry again.  We put some Christmas music on and went about putting together Mom's new tree.  (We always had real trees growing up, but when cousins of mine saw their house burn to the ground because their real tree caught fire, we've used artificial ones ever since.)    It was a pretty and pre-lit and about 6.5 feet tall.  Mom has lots of ornaments from when I was little and it's always so fun to put them on the tree.

We left at around 11am the following morning.  K went to work and, in the evening, hung out with her best friends on a main shopping strip here in Queens.  J went to the dance studio to start choreography on her new duet.  Dance was 2 hours and then she met up with a bunch of her homeschooled friends to go ice skating at the Pond at Bryant Park.  It's beautiful there at nighttime.  She had a lot of fun and then slept over her friend's house.

My tree is going up this week and I'm happy to report that about 90% of my Christmas shopping is done.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Weekly Recap & What's Coming Up

This past week was just focusing on academic stuff.  I'm still hoping we can get to AO Year3  by January.  It's looking pretty good.  W is still enjoying the work - and that's what matters.  He takes the lead.  I show him what's on the agenda for the week and he picks what he'd like to do each day.  He had a part in choosing the curriculum and he can choose what the mornings look like.  It's great.  I love that he owns his learning.  And because of that, he retains just about everything.  It's common sense, it works, and everyone's happy.

So in math, we're doing decimals involving money, using the cents and dollar signs, and adding/subtracting decimals.   W is resigned to only use the TT5 workbook.  The company isn't too keen on just selling the book by itself, so thankfully we already own TT7 (which we'll start next year for 5th grade).  After that, we'll see. We're almost finished with The Little Duke (he's already getting sad about it coming to an end, lol) and we're going strong with Wind in the Willows, An Island Story, Seabird, & Pagoo.  The Spelling Skills workbook is our favorite, still.  W just finished a cumulative review of the first 6 chapters and got everything right.  The activities and repetition in that book are just what he needs to build his reading vocabulary.  I already have the 5th grade one, too.  For $6.95 ($5.21 with educator discount!) it's amazing. 

I plan on taking W on a lot more field trips soon.  I keep a list of over 80 museums in NYC.  I'd love to try and get to at least one a month.  There are so many we haven't seen yet.  I'll get fresh batteries for my camera and be sure to take lots of pictures. 

The girls are doing great.  K's birthday is in a few days and she's already starting the celebrations.  I can't believe she's almost 17.  On Friday night she went out with friends to a Mexican restaurant where they sing Happy Birthday in Spanish, lol.  She has work both weekend days and loves that it's a short school week.  We're in the process of getting college applications out.  She has a few ideas as to where she wants to go and seems on top of it all.  I'm so glad her college applications are a year after J's high school applications.  I would have went crazy if they were during the same year.  

J's still loving school.  Her grades have been wonderful and she's made dozens of friends.  I can already tell the difference in J's dancing since she's been at school.  15 hours a week of ballet and modern technique really does wonders.  Her solo for this season's competitions looks so great.  It's a lyrical/contemporary number from one of the studio's special choreographers from California.  She's so happy with it - more so than she's ever been with her solos.  She is also about to start choreography for a new duet.  She'll be doing this one with her bff and duet partner from last season.  It's going to be "fierce", as I'm hearing, lol.  Competition season is right around the corner.  Can't wait.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Dance News

J had a guest dance teacher at school yesterday.  Her name is Linda Sims and she dances with the Alvin Ailey Company.  It was great because they got to be with her for the whole 90 minutes when J normally has modern dance.  Then J had her 90 minutes of ballet.  On Thursday she was at the dance studio at 3:30pm working on her new solo for this season, then spent 4 hours on group choreography (not to mention the other 9 hours of dance at school and 3 hours of dance at the studio this week).  So much dance going on - and she'd have it no other way.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Academics and Broadway

Today W learned about decimals and converted them to fractions  (and reviewed perimeter, area, subtraction with regrouping, multiplication, and various word problems).  He zipped through the new lesson and did all 22 problems in less than 15 minutes.  I'm so glad he loves math.  I read Seabird to him and he read Pagoo to me.  Pagoo is great!  It's the perfect reading level for him - just challenging enough to learn from, but not so challenging that he'll get frustrated.  We'll try and do a chapter a week, one or 2 big paragraphs a day.  He did a proofreading exercise after learning 20 new spelling words and wrote out a poem in cursive for copywork.  We read more of Wind in the Willows and another chapter in An Island Story.

J had a school trip today to a Broadway show!  They went to see The Scottsboro Boys - a brand new Kander & Ebb musical directed by Susan Stroman.  It was a fully funded trip, which is amazing, since ticket prices range from about $40 to $250.  J loved it.  After the show, she hung around the Broadway area with friends for a bit, then took the subway back up to her school to meet up with a friend, then they took the train together to Queens where J went to the dance studio for 3 hours of new choreography.  She's a pro at the subway now, becoming confident and streetwise, but still careful.  Thank God for cell phones, though.  I cannot even imagine life without them now.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Book Attachment

So, W and I finished D'Aulaire's Abraham Lincoln and Holling's Tree in the Trail yesterday.  We have been reading a couple of pages a week from each of these for a long time.  W read to me almost every day from Lincoln.  Just this one read-to-me book has improved W's reading in so many ways.  He read the whole book to me, one slow page at a time.  And it was wonderful.  I read Tree in the Trail to him.  1 or 2 pages a week.  One of my favorite features of Ambleside Online is stretching out a book over months.  This is a great way to savor the classics.  W still remembers Viking Tales, Paddle to the Sea, and Aesop's Fables from Year 1 - and how much he loved those books.  He still won't let me resell them.  It's the same now with the ones we've just finished.   The first thing he said was, "I want to keep these.  Please don't give them to anybody".

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rockin' and Rollin'

W is on a good track to finish AO Year 2 before January.  It would be nice to get to Year 3 while he's still in 4th grade.  Yesterday we spent almost 3 hours on:

  • Wind in the Willows - Readaloud with narration
  • Abraham Lincoln - W read a page to me
  • Five Children & It - Readaloud, no narration
  • Teaching Textbooks Quiz - W took another math quiz.  It had 25 questions which included fractions, area, perimeter, rounding to the thousands, subtraction with borrowing, 4-digit addition, and types of triangles.  He missed only one. 
  • Copywork - W asked to do this.  He copied the first half of a poem into his notebook and used cursive.  He was so proud of how nice he writes, that he even signed it when he was done, lol. 
  • An Island Story - 2 stories on King Edward.  We're in the Middle Ages - right around year 1200.
  • Spelling Skills - This week he's doing words with the Long E sound (e.g. reason, between, scream, squeeze).  Today's exercise was to proofread a paragraph, circling spelling mistakes and adding missing punctuation and missing words.  He found all the mistakes.  I was so pleased to see that he can recognize misspelled words and know the correct spelling - except for 1 where he knew it was misspelled, but wasn't sure of the right spelling.  This kind of exercise is so difficult when you have issues with reading. 
His reading is improving every week.  I feel that the excellent books and slow reading schedule used in Ambleside Online, and what we do for spelling and writing has turned W into a capable, confident, fairly strong reader.  The strength of those 25 out of 26 dyslexia symptoms he exhibited about a year ago has decreased so dramatically and some have even disappeared.  It's almost shocking to see how far he's come. 

In other news, J is doing great in high school.  She loves it so much.  It's tough.  Her schedule is grueling.  She's still dancing at her studio and doing a work study there on Saturdays.  With all of that, she gets her homework, studying, and projects done without issue.  She's pulling top grades - she even has a 90 average in French.  It's been so wonderful for her.  Homeschooling allowed and nurtured so much of J's independence, self-sufficiency, self-esteem, and the confidence that she can accomplish and achieve anything.  Her amazing high school gives her the platform to use these skills.  It's working out better than I could have imagined.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Scout Camp

B took W camping this weekend with the scouts.  It turned out to be a beautiful few days with great weather.  The trees are starting to turn colors and it was just chilly enough to really enjoy the campfire.  W is a webelo scout now and he was so happy to finally earn his whittling chip.  This means he can now bring his pocketknife to all the scout camping trips.  He sailed through the whittling test with lots of kudos from the scoutmaster and few other kids.  W has been using a pocketknife for a while, though, carving and whittling any piece of wood he could find.

The rest of the weekend was filled with fun activities, games, and playing, which included:  pumpkin decorating, archery, target practice with a fire hose, running in and out of a big pirate ship, and hanging out in the cabins. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Manga Drawing Workshop

I took W to a Manga drawing workshop today here in Queens.  As interested as he is in drawing and cartooning, it was the perfect outlet and learning opportunity for him.  Located in the Little Asia section of Flushing on Main Street, this workshop was held on the lower floor of an office building.  The instructor (Hojin) does this kind of cartooning for a living and was a featured artist at the NY Comic-Con being held this week at the Javitz Center in Manhattan.  W was completely rapt and gave his full attention for the 2 hour class.  W's drawings have mainly been very cartoonish - big round heads, round bodies, disproportionate limbs - but today he was taught to really visualize the human form.  Hojin explained you have to know how to draw people correctly before you can transform them into cartoon - "You have to know the rules before you can break the rules".  So, W worked on head shape, proportion, muscle placement, and most importantly - visualizing or coming up with a plan of action before drawing.  And a really helpful thing was learning how to create anything using only a few basic shapes. 

W couldn't get enough.  I knew this would spark a renewed interest in art.  He could have stayed another 2 hours.  They gave him lots of pencils, sketch pens, thick white erasers, and plenty of paper.  I was told he was very bright, very creative, and that he seems to love to draw. 

The funny thing is that this time slot didn't have anyone in it except W and 1 adult art student.  The one-on-one was great, but I realized something.  Schoolkids don't want to go to a class on their day off from school, and homeschoolers don't want to do a (public) class when schoolkids are off.  I am in the latter category, but now I think I'll try and find more of these types of classes.  Maybe they'll do a series of workshops just for us homeschoolers.  There's nothing like learning something from someone who is passionate about the work. 

Saturday, October 09, 2010


Computer has been down for over a week.  This sucks twice as much since I work for the cable company.

New post coming on Monday. 

Thank goodness the girls have laptops or I'd be truly lost, lol.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

An Oldie but a Goodie

You Know You're From New York City When...

You say "the city" and expect everyone to know that this means Manhattan.

You have never been to the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building.

You can get into a four-hour argument about how to get from Columbus Circle to Battery Park at 3:30 on the Friday before a long weekend, but can't find Wisconsin on a map.

Hookers and the homeless are invisible.

The subway makes sense.

You believe that being able to swear at people in their own language makes you multi-lingual.

You've considered stabbing someone just for saying "The Big Apple".

The most frequently used part of your car is the horn.

You call an 8' x 10' plot of patchy grass a yard.

You consider Westchester "upstate".

You think Central Park is "nature."

You see nothing odd about the speed of an auctioneer's speaking.

You're paying $1,200 for a studio the size of a walk-in closet and you think it’s a "steal."

You've been to New Jersey twice and got hopelessly lost both times.

You pay more each month to park your car than most people in the U.S. pay in rent.

You haven't seen more than twelve stars in the night sky since you went away to camp as a kid.

You go to dinner at 9 and head out to the clubs when most Americans are heading to bed.

Your closet is filled with black clothes.

You haven't heard the sound of true absolute silence since the 80s, and when you did, it terrified you.

You pay $5 without blinking for a beer that cost the bar 28 cents.

You take fashion seriously.

Being truly alone makes you nervous.

You have 27 different menus next to your telephone.

Going to Brooklyn is considered a "road trip."

America west of the Hudson is still theoretical to you.

You've gotten jaywalking down to an art form.

You take a taxi to get to your health club to exercise.

Your idea of personal space is no one actually standing on your toes.

$50 worth of groceries fit in one paper bag.

You have a minimum of five "worst cab ride ever" stories.

You don't notice sirens anymore.

You live in a building with a larger population than most American towns.

Your doorman is Russian, your grocer is Korean your deli man is Israeli, your building super is Italian, your laundry guy is Chinese, your favorite bartender is Irish, your favorite diner owner is Greek, the watchseller on your corner is Senegalese, your last cabbie was Pakistani, your newsstand guy is Indian and your favorite falafel guy is Egyptian.

You're suspicious of strangers who are actually nice to you.

You secretly envy cabbies for their driving skills.

You think $7.00 to cross a bridge is a fair price.

Your door has more than three locks.

Your favorite movie has DeNiro in it.

You consider eye contact an act of overt aggression.

You run when you see a flashing "Do Not Walk" sign at the intersection.

You're 35 years old and don't have a driver's license.

You ride in a subway car with no air conditioning just because there are seats available.

You're willing to take in strange people as roommates simply to help pay the rent.

There is no North and South. It's uptown or downtown.

When you're away from home, you miss "real" pizza and "real" bagels.

You know the differences between all the different Ray's Pizzas.

You're not in the least bit interested in going to Times Square on New Year's Eve.

Your internal clock is permanently set to know when Alternate Side of the Street parking regulations are in effect.

You know what a bodega is.

You know how to fold the New York Times in half, vertically, so that you can read it on the subway or bus without knocking off other passenger's hats.

Someone bumps into you, and you check for your wallet.....

You cringe at hearing people pronounce Houston St. like the city in Texas

Film crews on your block annoy you, not excite you.

You actually get these jokes and pass them on to other friends from NYC.

Friday, September 24, 2010

East Village

St. Marks Place
 Beautiful day in the East Village here in NYC.  W's Lego Robotics class was Thursday and I took some pictures as we walked around outside.  Here is one of the blocks we walked down.  The East Village, known for the punk scene, art, jazz, hippies, beatniks, CBGBs, Andy Warhol, Japanese noodle shops, tattoo & piercing parlors, incredible nightlife, Blue Man Group, Stomp, the Strand Bookstore, Tompkins Square Park, and an insane amount of bars and restaurants, is just...wonderful. 

Right Off of 3rd Avenue

Second Floor Window Display

W and his Lego Car
And of course the Lego class was a big hit.  W paired up with his friend, F, and together they created a brand new 4-wheeled vehicle.  The trick is to create something that can actually move and turn with a wired control.  All the kids get very into it.  W puts so much thought and concentration into it.  The instructor was great again and had all the kids interested and eager.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


I am so proud of W and his reading.  I still have him read out loud to me every day - just a page or so.  He recently finished Chanticleer & the Fox and now we're back to D'Aulaire's Abraham Lincoln.  These are some of the "free reading" choices for AO Yr2.  The goal is  to start Year 3 by January (although we are doing Yr3's poetry, nature, artist & composer schedules).  We're also making sure that spelling practice is done at least 3x a week.  We're not using a program or curriculum for spelling, we just use an inexpensive workbook from Flash Kids (Harcourt Family Publishing) called Spelling Skills Grade 4.  I have never based a good book, program, or curriculum based on the price.  Many times, the cheaper product worked better for us.  Basically it gives you about 20 words (usually sound related) and a few pages of exercises that use those words.  It's as basic as they come, but this is the type of thing that works so well with W.  There are fill in the sentence blanks, homophones, definitions, rhymes, analogies, antonyms, synonyms, proofreading, syllables, and parts of speech exercises.

The reading every day and the spelling workbook have been so effective.  The more he reads and practices, the faster and easier he reads.  I just have to stay consistent with it.  It's strange to have a such a late reader.  I know I shouldn't compare kids, but J started sounding out words at 2yo, read easy readers and picture books at 3, chapter books at 4, and 3rd-4th grade stuff at 5.  K's reading took off at 4 and she's been a voracious reader ever since. The challenge with W is many-fold.  I've devoured dozens of books and websites for ideas on ways to help with his dyslexia.  I've been using a multi-sensoral approach to reading with him for over a year and that seems to work very well.  Things like clapping out syllables to using a dry-erase board to having a continuous word wall to making pancakes in the shape of "ight" make words come alive and it clicks and sticks.  I'm happy he reads on grade level (not above, not below).  I worry about the dyslexic "plateau", but I believe we can get through it.

Interestingly enough, he has no problems with math.  Math comes very easy to him and he enjoys it.  We're doing polygons and perimeter now, with multiplication review every day.  TT5 is certainly his favorite. I think it's a great program for 3rd & 4th grades.  Then we may use TT7 for 5th & 6th grades (I'm probably going to skip TT6 because it looks like a review of TT5 with a few new things at the end.  Besides, I already own TT7).  He uses only the workbook now, but may go back to the CDs one day.  We've fallen into a nice groove for the week:  3 AO readings a day with narrations, spelling, math, read-to-me, poetry, grammar, music, nature journal, etc - and of course our field trips and classes.  It's comfortable and doesn't feel stressful or rushed.  So far, so good, and it all feels right.  :)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

LEGOs & Science

We kicked off the new school year with a few awesome classes.  On Thursday, W had a class on Lego Robotics with other kids ages 8-13.  It was in the East Village in a quaint old building on a beautiful city block.  I haven't really been in the East Village in a long time.  I used to shop with my friends there when I was in high school, but nothing too much as an adult.  Walking down Astor Place and St Marks Place was so fun.  There are tons of restaurants, jazz bars, and funky boutiques.  I forgot how much I love that neighborhood.  I called B right away and said we have to move here, lol.

In the class, W and his friend F worked on making a Lego car with some wires coming out of it and used a remote control to make it move.  This was a basic lesson on robotics and he loved it.  They also watched a video on how it's done.  The instructor is this great guy who is passionate about robot building and is really good with the kids.  I sat with a few other parents chatting away while the kids built their cars.  Afterward,  W and I grabbed a few slices of pizza with our friends.  I found a place that gives you 2 big slices and a can of soda for $2.75 (no tax).  How cool is that? 

On Fridays W is taking a series of classes at a science museum in Long Island.  The drive is only about 20 minutes from home, which I love.   The 6 weeks are focusing on Earth Science and the first class was all about rocks.  He's in with other 4th-6th graders.  They had buckets of different small rocks and had to match and glue them next to their descriptions.  They also made an edible craft.  W learned so much in that hour (and even told me about it!).  After the class he went and played with a bunch of other kids for over an hour.  He is looking forward to next week - and next Friday he starts his Cub Scout meetings again!  He's a Webelo this year!

Friday, September 17, 2010

"Fame Field Trip"

 I just found a video that was uploaded the other day on YouTube all about J's school.  It's great and shows what the school is really like.

J has a few of the teachers in the video.  I think it was made a few years ago, but the school is the same.  Every day she comes home raving about something wonderful that happened.  I am so proud of her.  I can't imagine a better way for J to spend the next 4 years.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Eminem and Art

K went to the Eminim/Jay-Z concert last night at Yankee Stadium.  She said it was the best concert ever.  Besides the 2 headliners, she saw:

Beyonce, Fifty Cent, B.O.B., Drake, Trey Songz, Rhianna, Nicki Minaj, & Kanye West.

She didn't get home til around 2am, but I wouldn't have let her miss this.

W and I went to a really great tour and workshop at an AC Moore store in Nassau.  We met up with some other homeschoolers and got some great ideas for new crafts.  I am inspired to try scrapbooking.  The kids finished the trip with some arts/crafts in the classroom.  They discussed daydreams and how you can create anything if you use your imagination.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


This was a morning that actually went the way I scheduled it.  I drove J & B to the train at 7am, swung back home to pick up K & W, drove K to school (stopping to pick up coffee, a breakfast bar, and arizona sweet tea for K's lunch), and got home with W by 8:30 (got stuck behind a school bus for forever -__-).  Right away, I threw on a load of towels, put away dishes, wiped down the bathroom, made my bed, and cleared a clutter pile.  Then I put the towels in the dryer, windexed the mirrors & glass and dusted the china cabinet and ceiling fans.  All of this took exactly 1 hour.

At 9:30am I sat down with some coffee to check some emails and facebook.

At 10am, I got out all the homeschool stuff and W and began some academics:
  1.   2 pages of math
  2.   1/2 a chapter of Wind in the Willows w/narration
  3.   W read a page of Abraham Lincoln (D'Aulaire) to me
  4.   Homophones exercise in Spelling Skills
  5.   1 lesson in Writing Strands
  6.   1 chapter from Child's History of the World w/narration
  7.   1 William Blake poem
  8.   Some of the reptile section in the Handbook of Nature Study

    Friday, September 10, 2010

    First Day

    So, the kids all had a great first day of school. K is so thrilled to be a senior.  She even met up with some friends before school to paint one of their cars with the word SENIORS! all over it.  She loves almost all of her teachers.  Sheesh.  College is right around the corner.  K's schedule looks like this:
    AP English

    J was so excited for her first day.  B went with her on the train (he works nearby) - she could definitely go it alone, but we wanted to make sure she knew where she was going, lol.  Inside, she got her ID, schedule, and some papers.  She found all her classes, no problem.  And they're all on different floors.  Thankfully, the school has escalators.  She's actually annoyed that she has 4 days off until school again.  Oh, and yes, she enjoyed seeing some celebrities there.  J's schedule looks like this (periods are 45 min each):
    Dance (ballet)
    Dance (ballet)
    Dance (modern)
    Dance (modern)
    Living Environment
    Global Studies

    W and I are in the swing of things as well.  He's enjoying the 1-1 time with me which is a new revelation for him, since he was worried about J not being here.  We're trying to zip through the rest of AO2.  Readings and narrations are going well.  Math is going really well.  We're going to incorporate some LoF into our week along with the TT5.  I'm going to try some "Fridays with Fred" (stole that idea) and see how that goes.  I think I'm going to start the grammar and the writing programs soon.  Why wait til AO3?  He's in 4th grade now.  He's ready.  Oh, and we're not doing the Wednesday science co-op.  I didn't realize it meant I would have to teach some of the classes!  I'm so not that kind of person, lol.  He still has a class in Manhattan on Thursdays and one in Long Island on Fridays that he's so looking forward to.  Starting this Monday, W and I will add in the art, music, nature, foreign language, copywork, & poetry again.  He does really well with the short lessons.  We try and keep them at about 15-20 minutes each.  We've stretched the day out to around 3 hours now.  So far, so good.

    Tuesday, September 07, 2010

    Yes, We're Biting Back

    There's a fantastic article out there now on homeschooling.  It expresses how I and countless other homeschoolers feel, but this author put it into just the right words.  I am so happy to share it here and even happier to be able to call this author my friend.  Here name is Chele Coyne.  And here are her beautiful words:

    Homeschoolers Bite Back

    It seems that the mainstream media is dedicated to promulgating a distorted vision of the homeschool community, in which "most" or "the majority of" homeschoolers are religious fanatics, or else we are extremely privileged and wealthy hipsters. Apparently, the press would have America believe that we are all bigots or brainwashers, or too trendy and elitist to be taken seriously.

    Here's the latest from the New York Times: In which a bunch of urban artistes with preschoolers apparently make homeschooling in vogue.

    After the hatchet job that ABC did on unschoolers, I predict far more of the silly stereotyping, because most homeschoolers who don't fit the narrow media image are completely uninterested in signing up to be misrepresented to the world and ridiculed.  (Ed note: see videos below).

    Perhaps someday the media will understand that:

    Homeschoolers come from every race, ethnicity, socio-economic class, educational background and belief (or nonbelief) system. My homeschool group is far more diverse in every conceivable way than my neighborhood school. I do not homeschool to keep my child away from "people who aren't just like us" as the charge is often made. I homeschool to give him the world as his classroom, with all the wonderful diversity it offers.

    Single parents and families in which both parents are employed can and do homeschool. We are not all wealthy. In fact, many of us have considerably downsized our lifestyle in order to be able to do this. And some of us have the laudable stamina and dedication to be able to do it in the hours when we are not working outside the home. The "homeschoolers are wealthy elitists" stereotype spits in the face of all the families making financial and personal sacrifices in order to follow this path.

    We don't have to do it the same way the schools do, and are not bound by their choice of schedules or curricula. Homeschooling can happen in hours other than 9 am to 3 pm, Monday through Friday. Some of us learn in the evenings and on weekends. Some keep a year-round schedule as opposed to taking the long summer break that the schools do. Additionally, it does not take as much time to cover academic material with one or two of your own kids, whom you know better than anyone in the world, as it would in a school setting. Homeschoolers do not have the bureaucratic and crowd control concerns that you end up needing to address with large groups of children who are virtual strangers taught by strangers.

    Homeschoolers enjoy an unbeatable student to faculty ratio. Our kids get individualized attention, and we do not need to subject them to standardized tests to assess their progress, because we are intimately involved in it. We have the luxury of teaching to our children's individual level, and taking as much or as little time as is required for them to master the material. We do not have to bore a kid who "gets it" with endless repetition because some of his peers do not. We do not have to leave a struggling student behind in order to keep pace with the average student. This is the tremendous advantage of homeschooling. The differentiation that public schools can only strive for, we can make reality. We also are not hamstrung by administrators requiring us to teach to the test, and practice practice practice the test, at the expense of real learning. Many of us decided to homeschool for just these reasons.

    Homeschooling doesn't mean we just stay home all day, everyday. This is why we have no patience left for the uniformed inquiries about socialization. Homeschoolers are out and about, enjoying the real world, while schooled kids are stuck in an artificial age-segregated microcosm of society. Yes, there are some weird, socially awkward homeschoolers, just as there are some weird socially awkward school kids; it has more to do with personality type than educational choice.

    Parents do not all need to be able to teach calculus and high school physics in order to even consider homeschooling. First of all, we can outsource those subjects to more skilled teachers, if necessary. There is an amazing wealth of curriculum materials and classes that homeschoolers can access. Secondly, while we may have forgotten what we learned in school, we are perfectly capable of learning a subject alongside (or just slightly ahead of) our children. We value instilling in our kids a love of learning and the ability to find the answers they need in life above rote regurgitation of a set of facts. Children can only be inspired when they see their parents learning and growing along with them.

    Does the hypothetical horrible example homeschool parent exist who doesn't care about his/her child's education at all? Probably. Certainly there are parents who are utterly disinterested in their schooled child's education, and who do nothing to ensure that homework is done, or that studying happens. There are bad apples in every barrel. But unlike the school systems, homeschoolers don't think the hypothetical lowest common denominator should be used as an excuse to infringe the liberty of the rest of us who are doing the right thing. Nor do we believe that the government is entitled to dictate what goes on in our homes and families in the absence of probable cause to believe that abuse exists. That's the standard for government intrusion into family life. The fact that we homeschool doesn't mean that we have waived our constitutional rights to due process so that different rules apply. When the government is free to come into your house and check whether your kids did their homework, and not before, will I agree to have it look over my shoulder. Or maybe not. Because on that day, America will have ceased to be a free country. In the meantime, I will comply with the existing state regulations, and oppose any attempt to broaden state control over my family.

    Homeschoolers in most states do not receive any funding whatsoever from the government. I think that Alaska and maybe a couple of other places do have some sort of financial aid available, but here in New York, and in most places, homeschoolers do not get subsidies. However, we do pay school taxes, from which we reap no personal benefit. Teachers are allowed to deduct supplies they use in the classroom, but not so homeschoolers. And most of us like it that way, because there are no strings attached, as there might be if we were accepting public funding. Public schooling is state action, undertaken with public funds, and that is why it is regulated. Homeschooling is a purely private endeavor in which the government should have no purview. So that is why we don't all agree with the premise that, "Well, if you are doing the right thing, why shouldn't you want your kids tested like the school kids? If you have nothing to hide, why not?" Because I'm not an arm of the state, responsible to the people, nor am I sucking on the public teat, and spending money in which the American taxpayer has an interest. I am raising my own child, and saving the system the resources it would otherwise need to be committing to his education. Why that makes me a presumptive villain, I will never understand.

    Ultimately, homeschoolers believe that the privilege and responsibility of raising our children and educating them belongs to families, not the government, and we are prepared to buck the system and do it ourselves, because we believe it is the best thing for our families. That is in no way a comment on what is best for anyone else's family, or a knock against people who send their kids to school. Everyone should be free to choose the best course for their own family. For us, it is homeschooling.


    You can find more essays by Chele Coyne on her blog "Homeschooling On Hudson".

    And I received this today in the mail:


    I used my "new" IHIP format that details the Ambleside Online method and booklist (see sidebar), along with my usual beginning and ending.  This was just as quick and easy to write up, since I had made a list and schedule for myself prior.  I just copied and pasted what I wrote.  And it's as concise as the worldbook IHIP, and still all on one page.  So here we go.  On to another wonderful homeschool year!

    Saturday, September 04, 2010

    Labor Day Weekend

    W and I have resumed AO Yr2.  It's nice to sit with him doing academics again.  So far, so good.  The first day he went over all the times tables from 1 to 12, just to refresh.  He still remembers them all - so yay for Times Tales for being better than I could have imagined.  We read some history, geography, & literature and he did a good job narrating.  He also read to me (Chanticleer & the Fox).  We're doing a few pages of that every day, too.  TT5 - we're up to the different types of angles and triangles. 

    J's freshman dance orientation was the other day.  This was to help the kids not be overwhelmed the first day and how to easily navigate the school.  J got her locker, lock, and a weekly bulletin (called "the yellow sheet").  The 2nd part of the orientation was all about dance.  The dance chairperson brought us into one of the smaller theaters to discuss what to wear, how the schedules work, and what to expect.  The kids got another tour of the dance floor and found their lockers.  Omg.  She starts in 4 days.

    She and a friend are spending the weekend at my mom's in Long Island.  They'll probably swim in the pool, go shopping, and have a grand ol' time.  The rest of us are heading out there on Sunday night after I'm done with work.  Monday afternoon, my sister is having a birthday brunch party for her son who turned 10 today.  My birthday is Wednesday, it's the first day of school here, and I took off work!  It should be a really great day.

    K senior picture day was on the 1st and it was so nice.  The kids get 3 outfits to wear (a drape, cap & gown, and your own choice).  She also got her new schedule and it has almost everything she picked in June.  Thankfully she got trig switched to statistics ( I took that in college & got an A so I'm excited about it, too, lol) - everything else is the same. 

    In other news, we adopted another parrot.  This one is a quaker parrot who needed a home.  A friend of mine found it in her apartment building's basement (with cage and all) and couldn't bear to leave him there.  She has cats so needed to find a home for him - and of course I said yes.  We named him Petey and his cage is sitting on top of Lucy's (our black-capped conure we adopted last year).  Petey is still really nervous and nippy, but he's coming around.

    Friday, August 20, 2010

    September's Almost Here

    Can't wait for September to come - although this summer has been pretty awesome.

    W is still having a blast with camp.  This week is called "Camping Week".  They've included so many crafts, recipes, activities, barbecues, and even marshmallow roasting.  Next week is called "Carnival Week".  It's the last week.  The whole week will have a carnival theme - and then they're having a real carnival on Friday.  I'm so pleased at the whole thing, how it was run, the incredible creativity involved, and the price was so reasonable.  I'm really going to try to continue keeping him on a busy schedule once camp is over.  He thrives on that.  So far we have 3 weekly group classes and 2 early days at the park lined up.  I'm pretty sure he'll be at the playground almost every day in the early evenings.  And I'm still looking for more things to do.  He is so not made to be sitting at a desk for 6 hours a day - which is another reason I love AO and Charlotte Mason.

    Speaking of which, I ordered 10 more books for AO Year 3 from a used book site.  Each book was $3.50 and shipping is free.  I'm so excited to get this year school year started.  Yes, we have a bunch of Year 2 stuff to finish first, but hopefully we can knock that out in a month or 2.  I know W is going to enjoy this year a lot. 

    J is out at her friend's summer house til Saturday.  They got there Wednesday and went to the Splish Splash water park with the development.  On Thursday she spent the day on the beach with all the kids out there.  She went on a speedboat and even successfully tried knee-boarding!  After the beach, the kids went in the pool, had dinner, then had fun at a teen bingo night.  I'm not sure what they're plans are for today, but I know they're getting back early-ish tomorrow.  J's dance team is performing at that St. Jude fundraiser.  Call time is 5pm and they probably won't be out of there til after 10pm.  I'm working, but B bought a ticket so he'll be staying there the whole time.

    J's high school dance orientation is coming up at the end of the month.  There, she'll get her locker assignment, ID card, and learn what to expect and how to be prepared for her first day.  Once school starts, I know she'll have 2 ballet classes & 2 modern dance classes every day (4 periods = 3 hours).  And I'm not sure how these will be broken up, but she'll also have Dance Survival Skills (nutrition, anatomy, injuries), Math, Global, Science, English, & French.  And lunch is in there too, somewhere.  A regular day begins at 8:00am and ends at 4:09pm.  A letter we received stated that she'll be in one of the 2 "D" classes.  D class??!  I worried that she did badly on the placement test or that they looked down on homeschoolers.  I mean, I know she's smart enough for the "A" class - I'd even settle for the "B" class.   Then when I turned the letter over (yeah, I didn't know there was a back page until I looked at it again a few days later.  Sigh), and I saw that "D" stood for "dance". 

    K is still in training at her new job.  She already got a tentative fall schedule, so it looks like she's hired.  She loves it.  She gets to make juices and smoothies all day and gets a free meal too.  The menu is full of healthy organic wraps and bowls with brown rice and lots of greens.  I'm loving that K is not only eating healthier there, she's learning how to live that way all the time.  So, the other day a girl from one of her favorite TV shows walked in to the store.  K was so excited.  She talked to her for a while and the girl said she'd definitely be back often since she only lives a few blocks away.  K got the ok from her to keep the receipt with her name on it, LOL.

    Saturday, August 14, 2010

    Fall Schedule

    So, here's what I'm looking at this fall as a schedule for us.  I'm a list and schedule maker and I like having a guideline to use as a goal.  We probably won't stick with this 100% ( or maybe even 75%, lol) but it's nice to have something to try and keep me on track:

    6am    A,B, & J up and dressed
    6:30    Drive B & J to the train
    7am    K & W up and dressed
    7:30   Drive K to school
    8am    Breakfast
    8:30    AM Routine (Laundry, Beds, Dishes, Bathroom)
               Mon:  Dust, Windex, Wipe ceiling fans
               Tue:   Sweep, Mop bedrooms
               Wed:  Wipe moldings, doors, baseboards
               Thu:   Clean out fridge, Scrub tub
               Fri:     Sweep & Mop living room and stairs
    9:30    W - Academics
               Mon:  AO Reading, Spelling, Writing Strands, Read to me, Poetry, Copywork, AO Reading
               Tue:  AO Reading, Spelling, Dictation, Read to me, Poetry, Copywork, AO Reading  
               Wed:  AO Reading, Spelling, Grammar, Read to me, Poetry, Copywork, AO Reading
               Thu:  AO Reading, Read to me, Poetry, Sign Language, AO Reading
               Fri:  AO Reading, Spelling, Writing Strands, Read to me, Poetry, Copywork, AO Reading
               Mon:  Math
               Tue:  Math
               Wed:  Math
               Thu:  Leave for Homeschool group class
               Fri:  Math
               Mon:  AO Reading
               Tue:  AO Reading, Latin
               Wed:  AO Reading, Latin
               Thu:  Traveling to class
               Fri:  Snack
               Mon:  Nature Study
               Tue:  Artist Study, Typing
               Wed:  Composer Study, Greek Alphabet
               Thu:  Quick lunch before class
               Fri:  Leave for science class
               Mon:  Lunch
               Tue:  Lunch
               Wed:  Lunch
               Thu:  Homeschool class
               Fri:  Science class
               Mon:  Track and bike riding
               Tue:  Track and bike riding
                Wed:  Leave for science co-op
                Wed:  Science co-op
                Thu:  Lunch
                Fri: Lunch
                Tue:  Food Shopping
                Fri:  Food Shopping
                Mon:  Leave for work
                Wed:  Leave for work
                Thu:  J - Dance
                Fri:  Drive K to work
                Tue:  J - Dance
                Thu:  Pick B up at train & drive to work
                Fri:  Drive W to scouts
                Mon: Work
                Wed:  Work
                Thu:  Work
                Fri:  Scouts
    10:30   PM Routine (Clear table, wash dishes, sweep/swiffer kitchen, clean sink, 10 min pickup)
    11pm   Bed

    Tuesday, August 10, 2010

    Happy Birthday

    J turned 14 years old yesterday!  What an amazing day.  It started the night before when she asked if she could open her present at midnight.  We were so excited  about her gift that I ran and got it from the car.  We got J an Asus netbook (highest rated one on consumer reports).  She was almost in tears.  I found a netbook to be way better for her than a laptop right now.  It does almost all the same things anyway - it's just smaller and doesn't have a disk drive (which doesn't matter, because you can download anything with just a serial number now).  She's hardly put it down since.  It has a built-in webcam, is surprisingly quick to load, browse, and watch videos, and I've already downloaded a security suite. It's perfect to do schoolwork on with excellent portability and battery life.  It's a beautiful matte (no fingerprints!) burgundy color and I threw in a soft case for it.  (We gave K the same one - as an early birthday present - since she'll need it when school starts.  She was even closer to tears than J was since she's been asking for one for 2 years.  The girls were both so happy for each other and spent the next 2 hours - yes til 2am - testing out all the features together).  So in case any of you out there have kids who are constantly asking for a laptop, check out a netbook -also knows as a "mini" - instead. :) 

    So, one of J's best friends put together a little surprise party at her house yesterday afternoon.  My job was just to get J there by 1.  6 friends were there - which is pretty good since it came together in less than a week, lol.  J was really surprised.  The house had purple birthday decorations all over and the kids had pizza, J's favorite snacks, and a Carvel cake. 

    In the evening, the whole family went out for dinner.  My parents and sis and B's aunt (MIL is on vacation) joined us.  It was so nice.  We did cake and candles there.  Mom gave her a CHI hair straightener and a few Capezio leotards for school.  I still have to buy a bunch more leotards and tights for school.  K needs uniform shirts and pants and I still haven't gotten the back to school supplies yet.  School starts in a month.  Yikes that went fast.  I better get moving with that.

    Saturday, August 07, 2010


    I'm getting everything together for the new school year.  I have just about everything for AO Yr 3 - W's 4th grade.  I have one more book order to make and the total for that is about $65.  I cleaned out my whole china cabinet and the bookshelf in my bedroom.  I have 4 knee-high piles of books to give away.  I have to get them out of here.  I hold on to books way too long.  I'm just going to post it to my homeschool groups that they will be laid out tomorrow on my porch and they're free for the taking.

    My china cabinet has been the best place for me to keep all my homeschooling stuff.  I got rid of the good dishes long ago (good dishes? hahaha) and replaced them with a huge array of novels, workbooks, reference books, and supplies.   Here's what it looks like with the doors open.  In the second picture, I labeled what's what:

    This is in my dining room.  Since W does everything either on the couch or at the dining room table, This is also a prime location.  Going through every bookshelf in the apartment (there are 4 more, lol), I found I have almost all the books for AO Years 4-6 as well (thankfully, many books carry over to the next year). 

    W has camp until August 27th.  It's so much fun for him that I'm ok with putting off what we didn't finish from AO Yr 2.  Actually, we are doing some stuff on the weekends, but I'm going to try and squeeze in more wherever I can.  Last night he read to me - the first few pages of Superfudge.   This book is right on grade level for him and he breezed through it.  I was stunned.  He hasn't done any formal reading with me all summer and he just read better than he has all year.  He finds the book really funny so far, so we'll keep with it...twaddle or not, lol.   I say it's because he's been doing a lot of read-to-me all year from the AO living books.  And of course my flawless collaboration of flash cards, phonics workbooks, and the HoP Master Reader.  But who knows.  Maybe it all just clicked for him.   The following dyslexia symptoms were in full bloom at the start of the last school year. 
    • can read a word on one page, but won't recognize it on the next page.
    • knows phonics, but can't—or won't—sound out an unknown word.
    • slow, labored, inaccurate reading of single words in isolation (when there is no story line or pictures to provide clues)
        When they misread, they often say a word that has the same first and last letters, and the same shape, such as form-from or trial-trail. they may insert or leave out letters, such as could-cold or star-stair. they may say a word that has the same letters, but in a different sequence, such as who-how, lots-lost, saw-was, or girl-grill.
    • when reading aloud, reads in a slow, choppy cadence (not in smooth phrases), and often ignores punctuation
    • becomes visibly tired after reading for only a short time
    • reading comprehension may be low due to spending so much energy trying to figure out the words. Listening comprehension is usually significantly higher than reading comprehension.
    • directionality confusion shows up when reading and when writing
        b-d confusion is a classic warning sign. One points to the left, the other points to the right, and they are left-right confused. b-p, n-u, or m-w confusion. One points up, the other points down. That's also directionality confusion.
    • Substitutes similar-looking words, even if it changes the meaning of the sentence, such as sunrise for surprise, house for horse, while for white, wanting for walking
    • When reading a story or a sentence, substitutes a word that means the same thing but doesn't look at all similar, such as trip for journey, fast for speed, or cry for weep
    • Misreads, omits, or even adds small function words, such as an, a, from, the, to, were, are, of
    • Omits or changes suffixes, saying need for needed, talks for talking, or late for lately.
    • Their spelling is far worse than their reading. They sometimes flunk inventive spelling. They have extreme difficulty with vowel sounds, and often leave them out.
    • With enormous effort, they may be able to "memorize" Monday's spelling list long enough to pass Friday's spelling test, but they can't spell those very same words two hours later when writing those words in sentences.
    • Continually misspells high frequency sight words (nonphonetic but very common words) such as they, what, where, does and because—despite extensive practice.
    • Misspells even when copying something from the board or from a book.
    • Written work shows signs of spelling uncertainty--numerous erasures, cross outs, etc.
    He still exhibits all of these - but now it's way less frequently.  He has learned to stop and catch himself most of the time.  This does slows him down a smidge, but he seems to have full comprehension.  Interestingly enough, he has no dyslexia symptoms in the other categories listed on the site:  handwriting, directionality, sequencing steps in a task, rote memory, telling time, math, or attention span.  Only reading and spelling.  The site lists some particular strengths in dyslexic people and W has all of these:
    • artistic skill
    • athletic ability
    • musical ability
    • mechanical ability
    • people skills
    • 3-D visual-spatial skills
    • vivid imagination
    • intuition
    • creative, global thinking
    • curiosity   
    Well, the main thing is that each month he is becoming a better reader.  It's good that he still loves AO, because I really love it, too.  I know it has helped W not only with his reading, but it has really fostered his love of learning and boosted his confidence in himself. 

    Monday, August 02, 2010

    Dance Challenge & K's New Job

    Today is K's first day at her new job!  It's at a wonderful juice bar/health food place about 10 minutes away.  She'd frequented the one near her school, fell in love with the place, and loved most of the menu - including several smoothies and lunch plates.  I'll admit, the food is awesome.  Another one just opened closer to home.  She'll have paid training all summer, then work 4 or 5 days a week after school and on weekends.  She gets free meals and drinks - and tips!  She's ready to start saving for a car.

    Also, we just got back from a fabulous 3 days in NJ at an Ultimate Dance Challenge.  J took tons of master classes including:  technique, jazz, lyrical/contemporary, afro-fusion, musical theater, floor barre/ballet, & hip-hop.  Thursday was a mini-competition.  There were 10 studios there bringing about 35 numbers.  J's team brought 4 group numbers (no solos or duets).  One of their groups won overall high score of the day!  It was great!  This number started with about 12 kids (both the older and younger teams) and the whole thing had to be restaged for the 5 kids on J's (younger) team.  They pulled it off with only about 4 rehearsals.  I love that this group works so well together (they've been a team since they were 7).   Then only 5 groups were chosen for Friday's dance-off challenge.  TWO of J's group numbers were chosen!  Out of the 5, they ended up taking 2nd and 4th place.  I was so proud of them.

    The hotel was nice.  W spent most of the time in the outdoor pool (thankfully we had great weather).  K brought one of her best friends and my mom joined us as well!  Since we didn't do a Nationals this summer, the 3-day dance challenge was a perfect substitute. 

    The rest of  J's August consists of:   her birthday, an orthodontist appointment, a St. Jude's fundraiser, a bunch of new choreography, and her dance orientation for high school.  W has camp til Aug 20th then we'll be finishing up any leftover 3rd grade stuff.   And K will be working and getting ready for her senior year.

    Life is so good.

    Tuesday, July 20, 2010


    Summer is going so fast.  It's already the end of July.  J started her summer reading for high school and chose The Outsiders to read first.  She's still not much into reading, so thankfully that book seems fairly lightweight - and it's on the list.  The next book she's going to read is called The Glass Castle.  That one is mandatory and a project will be due.  We're getting ready for her dance challenge next weekend.  Then she starts working on a performance for a fundraiser that's in August, and then she starts on her new dance solo for the upcoming season.  This year she chose "lyrical" and she was lucky enough to get an excellent choreographer who is flying in from California for only 3 days.  J will have a total of 5 hours over 2 days working with him.  She's so excited.

    Camp is still going strong for W.  He gets to be active and busy all day with lots of other kids - and he's wiped out tired by 9pm.  I'm glad he's on a good bedtime schedule now.  Once school starts for both girls he'll have to start getting up early anyway.  I'll be driving J and B to the train and then K to school.  I figure it might be better to get an earlier academic start with W, too - that means more of the afternoon free to play and go places!  I plan on being more active in the homeschool groups this year and I want to get lots more Manhattan time in.  There's still so much out there we haven't experienced yet.  W doesn't know how he's going to like homeschooling without J, but I plan on making this year extra special for him.

    I'm trying to figure out which IHIP I should send in next month.  I have my general, all-encompassing one I always use and I have my Ambleside Online -specific one.  It doesn't really matter, although I may need more of a quarterly with the latter.  Ugh.  Not sure what to do.

    Friday, July 16, 2010

    Beautiful Blogger Award

    What a nice surprise to be given the Beautiful Blogger Award!  I want to say thank you so much to the wonderful mom over at Eclectic Homeschoolers

    There are 3 rules associated with the Blogger award.

    1.  Add a link and note of thanks to the person giving the award.
    2.  Pass the award on to the bloggers whose blogs you love (15 tops)
    3.  Share 7 things about yourself.

    I'd like to pass along the award to:

    1. Blessed Life - A great blogger and personal friend who lives life to the fullest and has taught me how very special a family really is.
    2. What's On My Mind - Awesome words from another friend who reflects on how the normalcies of life can be so interesting and fun.
    3. Majikfaerie - A wonderful free spirit who lives in Australia with her beautiful family.  I love reading about their adventures.
    4. Nurtured By Love - A talented family I enjoy reading about so much.  This mom was one of the first bloggers I came across while finding my own homeschooling journey.  She showed me that not only can this be done, but done well.
    5. NYC Homeschooler - Another good friend who loves NY almost as much as I do, lol.  I enjoy reading about what cool project her kids will come up with next.
    6. A Mother's Journal - a great blog to get lost in.  This mom is using Ambleside Online with her daughter and knows how to bring it all to life in such an inspiring way.
    And 7 things about myself:
    1. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology
    2. I won a karaoke contest once
    3. I hate my hair
    4. I love scary movies and roller coasters
    5. I can waterski
    6. I love birds more than any other animal
    7. I can spend hours in a bookstore

    Monday, July 12, 2010

    Camp Update

    So, as nervous as I was on Thursday when W started camp, things are going incredibly well.  I had a huge knot in my stomach leaving him there that first day.  One of the counselors is a 4th grade teacher and gave the usual fixed smile "ohhhhhhhh" after our answer to "where does he go to school".  I just hoped it wasn't going to be like sitting in a classroom for 10 hours.  I went down to see the main camp area and saw that W was already given breakfast (cereal, milk, juice) and that it was nice and cool in there.  The 4th grade teacher made sure he moved down to sit next to some of the other kids.  I walked out of there a little worried.  It sucks being the new kid. 

    I told W that if he needed me at all, for any reason, he could tell one of the adults he wanted to call me.   By noon he still hadn't called.   I knew that they played outside in the water at around 12:30, so I drove over and inconspicuously parked across the street from the playground area.  I watched W for about a 1/2 hour.  I know, I'm crazy.  But I wanted to see how well he was getting along with the other kids and that he was having fun.  He seemed to have made quite a few friends and looked like he loved being there.  Ok, good.  I can go home and relax now, lol.

    He came home raving about his day again on Friday (no, I didn't spy on him again, lol).  Then he talked all weekend about how he couldn't wait for Monday.  I'm actually very happy that he loves it.  Gone are the days where you can just let your kid run wild outside, not see him all day, and then call him in for dinner.  I grew up in that time of carefree fun and it was great.  Unfortunately, nowadays, we are more aware of stranger danger and what could happen, and how frightening it is when your child is out of your sight.  You could live in the city or the most rural woods - someone could be watching your child, waiting for that moment he's alone, and then just snatch him away.

    I am grateful to have a place W can go where it's fun, he has friends, and he is safe.  He's already hugged me and thanked me for letting him go there (and hugged and thanked MIL for finding it for him).  Too bad schools aren't run like camps.  Imagine how great schools would be if they allowed for more freedom, more fun, more outside time, more cool activities, more socializing time, more socializing with different age groups, snack time in all grades, and making learning enjoyable.  What a concept, huh?

    Wednesday, July 07, 2010

    Day Camp

    W will be starting day camp tomorrow!  I've had the kids in camp over the years and they've really loved it.   I guess with all the high school stuff and next year's homeschool curriculum and the girls' endless summer plans it slipped my mind this year.  Thankfully, MIL found one in walking distance with the perfect price.  It will be from 7:30am to 6pm.  They provide meals and a full day of cool activities, including water play, academic competitions, movies, and cooking class.  W is an early riser, so that works out.  B will take him in the mornings before work and pick him up when he gets home.  W is so excited and is looking forward to it. 

    We will still be doing as much academic stuff as we can.  I'm not worried about finishing this curriculum before autumn.  Camp is just what he needs right now.  Friends on the block and the playground are great, but when it's too hot (it was 103 the other day) or no one's home, W has a hard time knowing what to do with himself.  We go places, do crafts, cook, and he still does his cartooning, claymation, and weapon-making, but after a few hours, he's bored.  He's the kind of kid who loves being on the go and keeping busy. 

    So, he starts tomorrow.  He didn't even want to wait til Monday, lol.  Tonight I'll pack everything he needs:  sunscreen, swim trunks, extra shirt, plastic bag for wet clothes, some snacks, and water.  I hope he loves it.  He can then do the whole 6 weeks.  Wish us luck!

    Tuesday, June 29, 2010


    Summer is here in NYC.  It's so hot.  The kids are keeping busy throughout the days and I just prefer to stay indoors with my air conditioner on, lol.  K went to a water park called Splish Splash with her friends yesterday, the beach a few times, and will probably go to the movies tonight.  Her last day of school was Monday.  She chose all her classes for senior year.  It looks like this:  Trigonometry, AP Literature, Government & Economics, Astronomy & Forensics, Latin, and Yearbook.  She did very well this year and is already planning for college.

    J has been spending lots of time with friends.  They usually hang out at the park, running through the sprinklers, and watching the boys play basketball.  They all had a great game of dodge ball going the other day, too.  Sometimes they grab a bite to eat at a nearby diner or catch a movie.  Today she's taking advantage of the heat and spending the day in her friend's pool.  Summer dance classes are in full-swing.  Tuesdays she takes ballet, tap, and lyrical, Thursdays she takes contemporary and hip-hop, and now on Mondays she's part of a class based on the show "Glee".  Her dance team (her immediate team of 6 members) was just notified that based on their platinum first place performance at one of their competitions this year, they won a full scholarship to 8 hours of master classes and free competition fees to an "Ultimate Overall Challenge" in NJ in July.  It's like a mini-Nationals and is spread out over 3 days.  Needless to say, the studio owner is thrilled and we are all so proud of them.

    W is spending his summer so far doing what he loves best - going to the playground and playing Nerf Gun Tag with his friends on the block.  Auditions for a summer musical are coming up and he is looking forward to that.  It will be 2 weeks of rehearsals - 2 hours each day, 5 days a week - with 2 Saturday shows.  He was in this program last year and loved it.  J may join again, too, with her friend Amanda, but she's right at the age cutoff and besides, she'll be dancing at a fundraiser for St. Jude's Childrens Hospital that same day as the performance.

    W will also be finishing up AO Year 2 all summer.  We took a lot of time away from our schedule, so it's time to catch up.  We have a lot of fun with it and W enjoys it all.  We really only spend about 2 hours each morning on academics.  The rest of the day is his.  I want to try and get to Year 3 by autumn.  I ordered a few books already, like Writing Strands 2, Simply Grammar, The Story of Inventions, and Science Lab in a Supermarket.  Those cost about $68 total.  I only need to buy 2 more books on the schedule - American Tall Tales and The Princess and the Goblin.  Then I still need to buy about 8 of the "free reading" books (all the others I either have already or downloaded free on my Nook).  I can get those for a few dollars each, though.  So I probably won't spend more than $150 on his total 4th grade curriculum.

    Loving life here in NYC.

    Saturday, June 26, 2010

    J's Series Finale

    It's that time of year again for the annual assessments to be mailed in.  Yes, I still use the same format that's in my sidebar from 2005.  The highlights are fun to add, because I go back to September in my blog and make a note of most of our classes, activities, and trips.  Having it all here makes things so easy.  J's assessment was hard to write.  Where I normally put "J will begin ____ grade in September __", I put that J will begin 9th grade at the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and the Performing Arts in September 2010.  Wow.  That was the last bit of homeschool paperwork I will write up for her.  I didn't have to put that.  I've always liked to, just to make sure the district and I are on the same page with what's going on.  This time, though, it was more for a sense of closure.

    I remember when I was first considering homeschooling.  At 8 years old, my daughter started to hate to be taught anything, became indifferent to anything new, and 4 teachers told me she had ADHD.  She was in a great gifted school and had tons of friends, but was not the same kid she used to be.  Where was her bubbly personality?  Her enthusiasm?  Her zest for life?


    Homeschooling gave me my daughter back.  She started becoming her old self in only a matter of a few months.  I knew it was the right thing to do.  She taught me so much in our 5 years at home.  I learned to see life through her eyes.  Life (all of a sudden) became fun and exciting again and full of incredible things to experience.  And we tried to experience it all.   I will treasure every moment of it.

    This new chapter in J's life is something she's more than ready for.  She's spent over 5 years becoming someone who is confident, independent, and ready to take on any challenge.  Since she was 3, her passion has been dance.  It's what she eats, sleeps, and breathes.  Acceptance to a high school where she can live her passion is the ideal finale to these incredible years of homeschooling.  She is living her dream and I can't ask for anything more.