Sunday, May 30, 2010

Union Square Greenmarket!

On Friday we met up with the homeschool group for a class all about the Union Square Greenmarket.  This is a huge outdoor farmer's market with tons of fresh produce, meats, cheeses, honey, juices, homemade breads, desserts, and snacks, organic flours, wines, and even t-shirts and artwork.  Our instructor talked
about what a farmer's market is and how it differs from a supermarket.  She went over the broad varieties of foods coming straight from the local farms.  There are so many farms all around the city - in Long Island, Upstate NY, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Connecticut.  We saw stands from all those places.

The instructor took us on a little tour around the square and we stopped at one stand to ask questions.  This stand had lots of different fresh goat milk cheeses.  The kids were generally interested in how they milk goats and how the cheese is made.  I loved it.  I learned a lot.

We finished up the class by tasting some fresh goat cheese on homemade pretzels.  W loved it, J thought it was interesting, and I needed another couple of tastes before I knew if I liked it or not, lol.

For about an hour or so afterward, W played in the Union Square playground with his friends.  I got to relax and chat with some moms.  Then W, J, and I headed to the Forever 21 across the street and picked up the dress K wanted, then across the park to Barnes & Noble.  A few days earlier I decided to cash in all my Amex points for some B&N gift cards and buy myself a NOOK.  That's right.  I bought something for ME.  So, that day at B&N I played with the Nooks on display, knew it's exactly what I wanted and bought a cute cover for $40.  (Later that evening, my B&N gift cards were delivered!  B had to drive K to a semi-formal dance at her school, so I told him to swing around to the bookstore to get my NOOK!!!).

The kids and I then had a quick lunch and I had the ridiculous idea that it would be no problem to walk the 30 blocks to Times Square.  I did it all the time as a teen.  Ok, that was dumb and we should have taken the subway, lol.  But we got there in about 25 minutes anyway.  We went back there because J wanted to meet up with a friend of hers who lives over there.  We ended up visiting the Toys R Us store again and the Hershey Store.  It's Fleet Week in the city and uniformed military were all over the place.  We thanked every one of them we passed for their service to our country.  Then we got on the subway and were home in 20 minutes.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

King Tut!

Today we met up with a bunch of homeschooling friends to go see the King Tut exhibit in Times Square.  It was a beautiful, unbelievable display of over 100 pieces.  The Discovery Times Square Exposition was a darkened, dramatic maze of about 10 rooms that began with Tut's great-grandparents, then his father, then the rooms dedicated to the boy king himself.  Black-and-white photos from the 1920s were enlarged and showed the original excavations.  It was so cool to see the piece in the photo was the one that you were looking right at.  We saw many shabti (small statues that were to do labor in the afterlife), jewelry, small chairs, alabaster containers where innards were kept, makeup and fragrance jars, and the crown, necklaces, and dagger that was placed with King Tut when he was mummified. 

Afterwards, we all walked around Times Square and visited the new M&Ms Store.  It's a huge store with 3 floors of everything M&Ms.  On our way to go eat, we happened upon The Naked Cowboy and took a bunch of pictures with him.  He's a NYC busker who wears only white briefs, cowboy boots, and a guitar.  10,000 people a day stop to take a picture.  Then we had a fantastic lunch at Bubba Gump's right on Broadway.  We 7 adults were at one table and our 15 kids were at 2 other tables.  I had a blast with everyone and the prices were really reasonable - not bad for Times Square. 

We said our goodbyes and the kids and I headed across the street to the big Toys R Us.  Almost every time we're in Times Square, we just have to visit that store.  There were a lot of toy demonstrations going on - everything from a motion-detecting hover craft to Squirmle.  A guy dressed up as Iron Man was there and the new Candyland section was all redone.  J found her way into the big Barbie Dreamhouse again and W was floored at the number of Nerf guns they had, lol. 

The subway home was quick and we are all exhausted from a really great day.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

I've Gone and Done It

I created a new IHIP. After 5 years of using the info from the worldbook site, I created an IHIP based on a more specific breakdown of what we will actually be using. I figured, since now we do use a curriculum that we love, the IHIP doesn't need to be so general. I would still recommend the general format to anyone who isn't sure what they may use or who just wants something easy that's in compliance. I'm just in the mood to try something new. It will be for 4th grade for W starting in September and is based on Ambleside Online Year 3 for 2010-2011. I've always kept an outline like this for my own records, along with a calendar listing what we actually accomplished each day. It won't be as easy to just copy and paste with this one, but it may give you ideas on how to create a more tailored outline for yourself. I've kept the overall format the same, but I'm listing specific books and programs from the AO3 curriculum. So in a sense, I did do a copy and paste - just from a different website. The outline for Health is kept from  It is also still all on 1 page. I streamlined the methods/tools paragraph (at the end) to fit us better as well. From the beginning, I've always been firm on doing what's easy for me, as far as the homeschool correspondence. Matching up my own outlines and learning logs with what I send to the district is, in fact, easier.

I've left the general 4th-grade IHIP in the sidebar. I've added a general 8th-grade IHIP as well, since 7th & 8th grade reporting are a bit different than what's required for 1st-6th grades. I've added my new AO-based IHIP into the sidebar. The rest of the paperwork stays the same for now. I'm still sending the same quarterlies, annuals, and LOIs. The new AO-specific IHIP is still detailed enough to allow for the rest of the paperwork to be minimal - which is how I like it.

Sample IHIP (AO Specific) 4th-grade


DOB: ______   GRADE LEVEL: 4   SCHOOL YEAR: 2010-2011

ADDRESS: _____________   DATE MAILED: ___________

QUARTERLY REPORTS WILL BE MAILED ON: 11/15/10, 1/30/11, 4/15/11, 6/30/11

W will be using various methods/tools for 4th-grade instruction in all the subjects specified in Sect. 100.10 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education. The corresponding subtopics may include and shall not be limited to:

Teaching Textbooks 5 (Sabouri) & Life of Fred Fractions (Schmidt)

Writing, Phonics, Spelling, Grammar: Transcribe favorite lines from the Shakespeare play and scheduled poetry we are reading. Two perfectly written lines every week (in cursive). Written narration chosen from literature (1-2 per week, may be in cursive or manuscript). Draw a narration chosen from literature. Start Dictation, work up to one paragraph by end of year. Writing Strands 3 (Marks): two pgs weekly. Online typing tutorials. Simply Grammar (Andreola)
Poetry: William Blake, Sara Teasdale, Hilda Conkling, & Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. 1 or 2 poems per day, discussed and may be used as copywork.
Literature Read-Alouds and Independent Reads: Tales from Shakespeare (Lamb), American Tall Tales (Stoutenburg), The Heroes (Kingsley), The Princess & the Goblin (MacDonald), Children of the New Forest (Marryat), The Jungle Book (Kipling), A Little Princess (Burnett), The Water Babies (Kingsley), At the Back of the North Wind (MacDonald), Men of Iron (Pyle), Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland (Carroll), Through the Looking Glass (Carroll), The Bears of Blue River (Major), Swallows and Amazons (Ransome), Unknown to History: Captivity of Mary of Scotland (Yonge), Caddie Woodlawn (Brink), On the Banks of Plum Creek (Wilder), The Little White Horse (Goudge), The Saturdays (Enright), English Fairy Tales - and more (Jacobs), King of the Wind (Henry), The Four Story Mistake (Enright), Then There Were Five (Enright), The Wheel on the School (De Jong)
Foreign Language: Greek Alphabet, Sign Language

World & American History: Our Island Story (Marshall), This Country of Ours (Marshall), A Child’s History of the World (Hillyer). All history readings will be narrated. We will also correspond history readings with a timeline or century book and map.
Biographies: DaVinci (Landmark), Bard of Avon: the Story of William Shakespeare (Vennema & Stanley), Squanto (Ziner) or Landing of the Pilgrims (Daugherty)
Geography: A study of Marco Polo

Natural History and Science: Handbook of Nature Study (Comstock), Secrets of the Woods (Long), Science Lab in a Supermarket (Friedhoffer), The Story of Inventions (McHugh) or All About Famous Inventors & Their Inventions (Pratt) or War Inventions (Gibson). We will do various science experiments and go on weekly nature walks, keeping a Nature Notebook. The Nature Study schedule is as follows: Summer/Fall Term - reptiles. Winter Term - flowerless plants/crops. Spring Term - fish and amphibians

Personal and mental hygiene, Dental health, The body and its functions, Skeletal and muscular systems, Care and proper use of the body, Principles of digestion, Basic food groups, Good nutrition habits, Diseases, Safety, Substance abuse

Art:  Picture Studies focusing on 1 artist per 12 wk. term and reading his life story from biographies found at the local library. . We will be studying: Term 1 - Albrecht Durer (Italian Renaissance). Term 2 - Caravaggio (Italian Baroque). Term 3 - not sure yet. Drawing from nature and narrating tales with drawings. Drawing with Children by Mona Brooks
Music Appreciation:  Listen to 1 composer (specifically) per term and reading his life story from biographies found at the local library. We will be studying: Term 1 - Beethoven (Classical/Romantic). Term 2 - Vivaldi (Baroque). Term 3 - Chopin (Romantic)

Instruction methods/tools may include and shall not be limited to: reference materials (atlas, dictionary, thesaurus, globe, maps, videos, the internet), hands-on activities, projects, newspapers, magazines, frequent field trips, group classes, activities, & workshops, research, games, creative thinking, predicting/forecasting, gathering facts, CD ROMs, abundant art/craft supplies (clay, paints, crayons, pencils, sketch pads, chalk, charcoal, pastels, animation software, building materials, etc.), free play, structured sports, conversations, and real life.

Primary instruction to W will be provided by ______________________, his parents. Supplemental instruction will be provided by others, as necessary.


I borrowed some of the wording from another AO mom's lesson plan.  I like the way she describes what they do.  You can find her blog post HERE.  And here's a few words about this specific AO-based IHIP.

Sample IHIP 8th Grade


NAME OF CHILD: ____________

NYC Student ID: (optional)   DOB: ______  GRADE LEVEL: ___   SCHOOL YEAR: __________

ADDRESS: ___________________________

DATE SUBMITTED: _________________

QUARTERLY REPORTS WILL BE MAILED ON: 11/15/__, 1/30/__, 4/15/__, 6/30/__

_____ will be using various methods/tools for 8th-grade instruction in all the subjects specified in Section 100.10 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education. The corresponding subtopics may include and shall not be limited to:


* Maintaining skills in fundamental operations* Factoring and products* Sets and simple sentences* Numeration systems* Using fractions and decimals* Ratio, proportion, and percent* Equalities and inequalities* Simple formulas and equations* Graphing an equation* Powers and roots of rational numbers* Polynomials* Metric and nonmetric geometry* Pythagorean Theorem* Scale drawing* Right-triangle trigonometry* Customary and metric measurement* Permutations* Probability statistics* Statistical terms* Mathematics of insurance, banking, and taxes


* Independent reading, * Literal, inferential, and evaluative reading skills, * Literary terms, * Novel, short story, narrative poetry, * Nonfiction, * Biographies of great Americans, * American poets and storytellers, * Creative dramatics, * Listening and speech activities, * Advanced dictionary work, * Extended vocabulary, * Figures of speech* Spelling* Infinitive, participle, gerund, predicate nominative, predicate adjective, direct and indirect object* Kinds of sentences and their parts* Functions of sentence elements* Writing simple business letters* Report-writing skills* Improving skills in using basic reference sources* Inductive and deductive reasoning

History and Geography

* Our African, Asian, and European backgrounds* Exploration and discovery* Growth and development of the United States- Colonial life* Struggle for independence* U. S. Constitution and Bill of Rights- Westward movement in America* American Civil War* Reconstruction* U. S. as a world power * Meaning of democracy* Our American culture* U. S. political system* U. S. economic system* U. S. government* U. S. geography* Advanced map and globe skills


* Scientific method* Scientific nomenclature* Scientific measurement* Ecology and environment* Conservation* Composition of the earth* Ocean, atmosphere* Weather* Water and its uses* Weathering and erosion* Recycling of resources* Magnetism and electricity* Heat and light* Forces in liquids and gases* Wave, mechanical, electrical, and nuclear energy* The earth's movement* Newton's three laws of motion* Machines* The atom* Periodic table of elements* Compounds and mixtures* Chemical changes* Astronomy* The universe and Milky Way* Space and space travel


* Grooming* Functions of the body* The body's utilization of food* Types and functions of foods* Environmental hazards* Community sanitation and health * Health care services* Sexually transmitted diseases* Accident prevention, safety, and first aid* Mental hygiene* Substance abuse

Music/Visual Arts/Phys. Ed./Practical Arts

* Wide exposure to all forms of music* In-depth studies of composers and artists* Private vocal lessons* Arts and crafts* Art technique* Structured group dance lessons (tap, jazz, lyrical) 8+ hrs. per week* Free play indoors and outdoors* Practical arts* Library skills* Sewing* Knitting* Cooking* Banking* Budgeting* Running a household* Entrepreneurship

Instruction methods/tools/resources may include and shall not be limited to: reference materials (atlas, dictionaries, globe, maps, encyclopedias, non-fiction books, videos, the internet), workbooks, worksheets, hands-on activities, experiments, science lab, projects, newspapers, magazines, frequent field trips, group activities, classic/contemporary literature, research, journal/narrative/essay/poetry writing, games, creative thinking, predicting/forecasting, gathering facts, written peer correspondence (pen pals), music CDs, CD ROMs, piano keyboard, abundant art supplies (clay, paint, crayons, pencils, sketchpads, felt, chalk, charcoal, pastels, etc.), structured group dance classes and competitions, free play, conversations, and real life.

Primary instruction to _____ will be provided by ________________, her parents. Supplemental instruction will be provided by others, as necessary.

Monday, May 17, 2010

PLATINUM Lining to an Early Black Cloud

This weekend was the last dance competition of the season.  J had all 8 of her numbers in one day.  It moved along well and there was plenty of costume change time.  There was 1 awards ceremony in the evening.  All of J's numbers scored a Platinum or X-Treme Platinum - which are the highest given.  Our studio had at least one number in the top 10 (most in the top 5!) in every category.  It was a great day and a lot of awards were won.  J's solo placed in the top 10 and she won a scholarship to one of their fall dance workshops! 

The day didn't start out so well, though.  We woke up to find my car's front side window was smashed in.  B went out to check and noticed nothing was taken (EZ Pass, GPS, airbags, etc), so we were ok.  Then J reminded us her dance shoe bag was on the front seat.  Yep.  That's what was taken.  What are the odds that her dance shoe bag would be stolen on the day of her competition?!  It certainly doesn't look like a purse,  but I guess desperate people don't care.  In a matter of 1 minute I thought up a few plans to get us through the day - Which friend has the same size feet, who is not in a certain number, who else could she borrow from, how far is the dance shop and can we make it there and back in time.  As I'm trying to figure out how to keep my cool in the process, B came back in stating that he found the shoe bag down the block with all the shoes throw into someone's yard.  W had hopped the fence and B called out where each shoe was.  W retrieved them (they were everywhere)  and B matched them all up.  Every shoe was accounted for.  Stupid thieves.  I hope that bag stunk up to high heaven when he opened it -10 pairs of a teenager's dance shoes, after a whole dance season, are not a bed of roses, lol.  The window is being replaced on Tuesday morning at no charge.  Except for that little bit of panic and inconvenience, all is well. 

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Dance, Stereotypes, & High School

J had an early dance call this morning - 9am.  The studio owner is not messing around anymore and will do what it takes to get everyone there at the same time.  We're doing another competition next weekend.  We do this particular one every year.   J won TITLE  (Junior Miss ----)  there last year for her vocal solo.  I'm hoping it's just on Saturday (like it was last year) because Sunday is my goddaughter's First Holy Communion and I really don't want to miss that.  The studio recital is also coming up soon.  The big recital rehearsal is on May 27th and then the actual recital is Friday night on June 4th.  Once again, J will be in way too many numbers to count - plus leading her little ones from the pit again for 2 or 3 numbers - which is great, but really hectic when you have to squeeze everything into 3 hours.   J went to a school dance last night with a bunch of her friends.  She had a really great time and was home before 11pm.  I was worried about her getting home late and not being able to wake up for dance, but she got right up on her own and was dressed in 10 minutes. 

J pretty much smashes many homeschool stereotypes.  "Homeschoolers are socially awkward and don't really know how to make friends".  All I have to say to that is, HAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.   "Homeschoolers don't understand responsibility or having to do things even when they don't want to like they'll have to in THE REAL WORLD."  Ok, this is another huge crock of garbage.  Unlike her walled-up schooled friends, J has actually been IN and PART OF the real world every day, all day.  Waking up early for competitions and performances are no problem.  She has never missed a week of teaching her class of little ballerinas - and will start a workstudy next season (4hrs/week) for free dance tuition.  My 13y/o is more responsible than many adults I know.   "Homeschoolers are weird".   No, they're just real.   J has never been clouded by constant peer pressure, conformity rules, or following the crowd.  Kids are drawn to her because of her realness and loyal friendship.  She has more true best friends than anyone I've ever known and makes new friends constantly.  "Homeschoolers are super-smart." Ok, this one has some truth to it.  LOL. But it makes sense since there's so much individialized attention and extras.  We also go on dozens of field trips during the school year.  No school can say that.  "Homeschoolers miss out on so many things, like being around other kids, group activities, and school dances"  Umm...don't think so, lol.  I honestly believe that school administrators and school parents were so shocked that homeschoolers outperformed schooled kids on standardized tests that they had to go and create other reasons not to homeschool in order to dissuade people thinking about it. 

It really isn't hard to understand.  You either homeschool 1. because your child has special needs and won't be able to handle the rigors of school, 2. because you, as a parent, are just fed up with the ridiculous school system and know you can do a better job yourself, 3. because your child is so ahead of where she "should" be and is totally bored and uninspired by anything in school, or 4. because of  religion, 5. bullying, 6. celebrity matters, or 7. a combination of these.  We all want what is best for our children and unless you're in an unescapable situation, we follow our instincts and make any necessary changes to what is obviously not working.  I love that we have choices in this country.

I'm ok with high school, though.  Maybe just some NYC high schools.  There are 400 high schools to choose from in NYC's 305.8 square land miles.  About 100 of those are amazing and focused on particular subjects with lots of competition to get in.   My feelings about high schools differ a lot from elementary and middle schools.  High schools come with a certain level of freedom and independence, maturity and understanding, and in J's case, readiness, excitedness, and perfectness.  And most of all it's a school J hand-picked and put everything she had into being chosen for it.  That makes a difference.  Of course we have yet to see how it all goes, but I can usually trust my instincts when it comes to my kids' choices.  It's a big change, but I have no worries.  :)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


Reflecting on what we use for W's academics, I have to say, I'm more than pleased. Then again, if I weren't pleased, we'd use something else. But really, I just like everything. A major factor in determining what I like is what W likes. I love the math program. Teaching Textbooks is hugely effective for him. The short lectures and lots of review We'll probably continue to use it up to October. TT5 starts off at around a 3rd grade level, but does eventually cover to the end of standard 5th grade math.  After that, we may switch to Life of Fred Fractions.  I have all the LoF books, so I'd like to see how well W takes to it.  It's worth a shot. 

W reads aloud to me every day. He has to or else he slides backwards in his ability. He can read. It's just that words look like other words (e.g. pirate looks like picture). W is a whole language reader. This means he has to recognize entire words instantly in order to read fluently. Adults do this, but I feel that children who are still learning need to use phonics and whole language together. He won't sound a word out unless he's reminded. Any word longer than 7 letters makes him nervous (except compound words - he gets those). I don't know if this is part of his dyslexia or not, but I know it's frustrating for him.  Right now, a chapter of Doctor Dolittle (an AO "free reading") each day is working well. It's a perfect book for him, with short chapters and just challenging enough. I'm sad to see it ending soon. But there are other books on the free reading list for Year 2 that look like W could use for his readalouds.  These include: Chanticleer and the Fox andAlong came a Dog.  We may also revisit Farmer Boy and Mr. Poppers Penguins since we didn't finish them the first time.

W also uses Hooked on Phonics Master Reader a couple of times a week. This CD Rom program is a great help with larger words. It teaches how to break up words for easier sounding out. After the lesson, he reads a couple of stories on large cards that are provided. Since he already reads Doctor Dolittle to me during our
morning academics, he's not in the mood to read again so soon. I understand. It's draining. So, every few hours throughout the day I'll have him read one of the story cards to me. On the days we don't use HoP, I'll have him read something else to me thoughout the day. Usually it's If I Lived in Colonial Times. This is another great book for him and he asks to read it.

Poetry and Copywork are also done daily. We use a book called A Year of Poems which sorts poems into months and seasons. We will read one poem together and W writes out the first 2 lines. He knows this is to be done in his best handwriting, following all the right capitalilzation and punctuation. Sometimes he'll use cursive and sometimes print. It doesn't matter to me. The AO poetry schedule has us reading poems by Christina Rosetti this term. The AO website has a great page with 55 of her poems. We read one every day together.

Then we have the Ambleside Online schedule. A couple of the books like The Little Duke and Lamb's Shakespeare are very tough, but I love that they're there.  I read these aloud to W and I'll ask for one or 2 things he remembers. Sometimes if he gets stuck, I'll mention a certain part and then he tells me the rest. The other readings: Our Island Story, A Child's History of the World, This Country of Ours, The Burgess Animal Book, Understood Betsy, and Tree in the Trail tend to flow a little better. W gives much longer narrations with these. I read all of the selections to him. He listens intently, probably because he knows he has to narrate at the end. The older language used in many of the readings is such a great way to learn new words and meanings (and he has almost gotten over snickering at those older words that our current society has given new meaning to, lol).  Starting next year, he will read a few things by himself. He will also begin a few written narrations.

We also use various workbooks during the day. W (just like the girls) has always loved workbooks. We currently use them for language arts, geography, vocabulary, science, and some math. They are cheap, fun, quick, and very effective. He'll do a page or 2 in a workbook or 2 each day. I consider them purely supplemental.  I'm sure we don't really need them, but W enjoys them and I like saving pages for his folder (which is for me, not the district, btw).  We'll probably always use those. 

The things we have the hardest time getting to are the "extras". Artist study, composer study, nature study, wall timeline/book of centuries, and foreign language are more infrequent than I'd like. I mean it should be pretty easy to look at paintings, listen to music, and take a walk outside. Maybe because it seems so easy, I feel we can just get to it another time. When it comes to the history timeline, we both love that, but we just forget, lol. W is to write down a name or event with a few facts and the year(s) and we add it to the book. He definitely remembers facts this way. With foreign language, we dabble in French, some Spanish, even Latin. It's fun and definitely educational, but I wonder what he's really getting out of it? It's not like he'll become fluent with what we currently use. I took 5 years of high school and college Italian and can barely say more than "hello" - even though I got As and Bs. I may shelve that for a while until he's older. I'll see what he wants to do. But overall, I'm working on making these "extras" more a part of our week.

Two other aspects of the Charlotte Mason method (that are emphasized in AO) are art and handicrafts. W does enough of these on his own so I never really have to schedule it in. The only times would be for holiday crafts. He is still plugging away at his cartooning, claymation, weapon-making, and cooking. Now his new thing is the Diabolo. My sister bought him one for Christmas and W is determined to nail all the tricks. He watches endless youtube videos on how it's done and practices for hours. It's cool to see what can be done with that thing.

We have gotten into a nice groove with the daily academics. We incorporate many of Charlotte Mason's methods that are also reinforced via Ambleside Online: short lessons, a minimal amount of "twaddle", whole and living books, narrations, copywork, art/music/nature appreciation, and free afternoons. The whole CM philosophy just resonates with me. It fits so well into our lives.

Yeah. I have to say, I am definitely pleased.