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.