Tuesday, March 29, 2011

First Dance Competition!

We all spent the weekend out in Jersey for J's first dance competition!  As usual, the first is always my favorite, as we get to see all the number on stage with full costume.  J was in 8 numbers and received all Gold and Ultimate Gold awards, which are the two highest given.  J was thrilled when Diane Gudat (a prominent figure in the competitive dance world and who writes books and articles on dance) called her up for a special award for her solo.  She praised J's intensity and she went on for a good minute about it.  I was so proud.

The hotel was lousy, the days were long, and I left there feeling like I'd run a marathon.  But I wouldn't trade it for the world.  My daughter shines on stage.  Her studio owner pointed out how beautiful her lines have become, how much she has grown as a dancer, and that she was definitely meant to do this. 

K spent the 2 mornings doing everyone's hair.  She definitely has a knack for getting it just right.  Moms were even slipping her money to ensure they were one of the first done the next morning, lol.  W enjoyed hanging out with the other boys his age there - one a performer, one a twin brother.  The grounds were nice and grassy, so the boys got to run around outside.  

Next one is in a few weeks!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Piano, Film, & Phonics

W's music class this past week was all about the piano.  The kids got a basic introduction to it.  They talked about different types of pianos.  They learned about chords and melody and Beethoven and Mozart.  W was lukewarm about the piano, just like he was about the violin.  I'm waiting to see what will capture his interest.  He's looking forward to the next class.  Not sure what instrument is next, but he's excited.

Today at film class, W learned more about editing.  The kids went to the playground across the street and filmed some more of their movie.

The updated version
I found a new workbook that I absolutely love.  It's called "Word Study & Phonics" by Spectrum.  I had it in my closet from when J was in 3rd grade. She didn't like it then because it was too plain looking and too easy for her - even though it is a 4th grade book.  But it's exactly what W prefers.  It's on his grade level and the fact that it's plain makes it all the better for him.  The exercises seem to exactly focus on what he struggles with regarding his dyslexia.  To him, the words "these" & "those" look the same, "for" is still "of", and "want", "went", and "what" are so confusing.  The workbook had him read a sentence like:  "We all (chase, chose) a topic for our report."  It makes him look inside the word and distinguish between vowels.  There are all different types of exercises where you have to stop and really think about and look at words.  This is already so helpful for him.   Oh and he enjoys it so much, he does 2-3 exercises in one sitting.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Charlotte Mason

Every now and then, I like to take a "refresher course" on the Charlotte Mason method.  We have always incorporated some CM into our homeschooling ever since 2005.  I feel like I know all there is to know about it, but when we fall into a regular routine, sometimes key things get neglected.  My favorite place to start is right on the Ambleside Online website.  I just pull up the page for beginners and read everything in order, clicking on all the links and reading those pages through as well.  Doing this reminds me why I love Charlotte Mason.  It also gives me new ideas for when we hit different stages of learning.  We do things differently with W now than we did 2 years ago. 

I have been neglecting things like artist study, composer study, nature study, Spanish, timelines, - even copywork sometimes.  The funny thing is that we love those activities, but pushed them to the side, being in such a hurry to get through AO Year 2.  The problem with trying to rush through this curriculum, is that it defeats the purpose of the whole CM method.  I'm promising to now make time for these no matter what. 

Reading Charlotte Mason's Original Home Schooling Series lays out her whole philosophy.  It's a great idea to read this to understand the hows and whys of the method and how she implemented it in her own schoolroom.  She believed that children were so capable.  She believed learning should be very child-led, but also parent-guided.  "Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life" is one of her mottos. This means that,  1.  A child absorbs a lot from his home environment,  2.  It's important for your child to cultivate good habits,  and 3. We should give children living thoughts and ideas, not just dry facts.  The other quote always associated with Charlotte Mason is "I am, I can, I ought, I will".  It seems so wonderfully unschooly to me and is what my kids always innately believed about themselves.  I like this explanation from the Simply Charlotte Mason site:  ["I am" means that we can know ourselves and understand what we're really like. "I ought" means that we have a moral judge inside us. We feel like we're subject to it. It lets us know what our duty is and compels us to do it. "I can" means that we know we have the ability to do what we know we're supposed to. "I will" means that we resolve to use the ability we know we have to do what our inner moral judge has urged us to do.]  

I also love to google "Charlotte Mason" and read various websites and blogs and discussion boards for any new ideas or suggestions.  But mainly I like to be reminded of how much we love homeschooling and living this way.

Some of the other things I'm reminded of are that: 
  • Reading through books slowly over a few months makes them so much more enjoyable.  
  • Good literature and an incredibly gentle entrance into writing and composition are things that W responds so well to. 
  • W went from a first-grade reading level (and having 25 out of 26 symptoms of dyslexia) when he was 8 to now being able to read a book with  "RL 6.2" on the back, silently and quickly with full comprehension (and enjoyment).
  • W doesn't want to part with most of the books we finish
  • There are so many ways to correspond an art project with any reading
  • Having short lessons and afternoons free allows us to do so many classes & field trips and for W to pursue his interests.  And he has lots of interests, lol.
  • Living books are so much cooler than textbooks
  • Narrating after reading shows so much more of what they got from the story than any test could show  - plus it seems to create fuller and lengthier retention of info.
  • Getting outside every day is really needed, no matter the weather
  • I love the word "handicrafts".  :)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Violin, Friends, & Fun

W started a 7 week series of music classes yesterday in Brooklyn.  Every week he and a few other kids get to try one new instrument for an hour.  The first instrument the kids got to try was the violin. The instructor gave them a brief overview on how to read notes, what strings are what notes, how to hold the bow, how to position the violin under the chin, and how to play a few notes in sequence.  I watched a little bit of it at the end and was proud of how W gave it his all.  He looked adorable with the violin.  Then the moms got to try it!  W said the violin was ok, but he wouldn't want to continue with it.  So onto a different instrument next week!

No one in my family plays an instrument.  K did some violin and clarinet in middle school and she has a guitar that she tinkers on.  Piano keyboard was a regular class in J's gifted school (2nd & 3rd grades).  I can play a few things on the piano by ear and all of us sing.  Nothing really substantial, though.   I'm excited for these classes because W may find something he'll want to stick with.  He's looking forward to trying out more instruments.

After the music class, we enjoyed a fun few hours at a nearby Chuck E Cheese. We haven't been to one of those in years and W had a great time.  He and a friend payed tons of games, ate pizza, and sat together sharing Pokemon cards and playing Pokemon on the DS.   When we got home (remind me not to drive to Brooklyn anymore.  The train would have been much easier, lol) I picked up the rest of the family and W's friend Matt, who lives next door, to go bowling!  We did a "Family Bowl" which is $78 for 6 people, shoe rental, pizza, pitcher of soda, and 2 games of bowling.  Great price.

Today, K is working, J has dance, then both girls are hanging out with friends into the nighttime.  B & W are going upstate for a birthday party and I'm working at 5:30pm.  My work schedule is changing next week and I'll have both weekend days off!  I can't wait.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Film Class, Birthday, Reading

W went to his film class yesterday in the Lower East Side.  This time they learned all about editing.  The kids (6 boys, ages 10-12) broke up into 2 groups and filmed some scenes a few weeks ago based on their own ideas for a story.  They took that footage and learned how to add music, fade in and out, add lighting effects, cut pieces out, and more.  We moms came back just in time to see the 2 films.  I was impressed with their acting!  I also loved how the instructors asked the kids questions on their feelings about the movies, what they liked, and what they didn't like.  It was fun hearing them be film critics. 

After the class a bunch of us went to the playground for a while.  We got home around 6pm and ordered Japanese food in honor of W's 10th birthday.  It's his favorite.  Everyone was home around 9pm and we did cake and presents.  Due to all our busy schedules, we decided to do our usual birthday outing on Friday evening.  W decided he really wants to go bowling with all 5 of us.  I can't believe my youngest baby has hit the double-digits. 

Today we hit the books again.  Like I said before, I'm no longer in a rush to finish AO Yr2.  It's a lot more comfortable taking our time with it and allowing for all the time we need for field trips, classes and other outings.  We have about 9 weeks left in the schedule.  We're up to Lesson 63 in TT5 - starting division.  I know most math programs start with basic division, but I know W.  He is more of a "big picture first" kind of kid.  So, I gave him a brief overview of what basic division is (recapping from our Times Tales days a couple of years ago) and how to do fact families.  Then we did some with the division box and some with fractions.  After that, I went right into long division.  To me, it's easier to bring that in early, show him how it's done, let him do a few problems (with and without remainders), and then go back to basic division, working our way quickly back up to long division.  It worked.  He understands it and actually thinks it's fun (for now, lol).

We also read some of Joan of Arc & Seabird (with oral narrations), learned about subject and predicate in Spelling Skills, he wrote out a few lines from a Christina Rossetti poem for copywork, and he read 2 pages from A Cricket in Times Square.  He's doing well with that book so far.  I purposely made "Read to Me" part of our homeschool schedule since W does have mild dyslexia and I'd like to keep tabs on his progress.  His reading aloud is ok, not great, but he gets through it.  He's been asking to just read the 2 pages to himself instead, but I was reluctant since his "Read to Me" is full of skipped words, backtracking, and confused looks.  But I figured we could give it a shot.  He read silently on Monday and today.  Both times I would then read those pages myself and ask him to tell me back what he just read.  Would you believe that not only did he have full comprehension, but he was narrating back almost verbatim?  It blew my mind.  He even stopped to ask me what "scornfully" meant (he knew that word??).  I guess I should listen to him more often, huh? 

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Stonewall & Streams

  On Tuesday we went to our usual homeschool get-together at the pool hall in the West Village.  There's so many kids there his age and there's so many things to play.  Afterwards we went across the street to a small "park" where all the kids played tag, Nerf war, cops & robbers, and relay racing.  It was a gorgeous day out.  Right next to us was the infamous Stonewall Inn and in the park were life-sized statues of gay couples.  It seems to be a big tourist attraction.  The kids were climbing all over them while people were trying to take pictures, lol. 

Yesterday W and I went out to the Garvies Point Museum for a really nice class on stream erosion.  It was basically all about how streams are formed, why they curve, how they shape the land and move the sediment, deltas, alluvial fans, etc.  The instructor had this large sandbox which illustrated the movement and effects of both young and mature streams.  W enjoyed it.  Then we walked around the museum a bit.  It's major focus is on American Indian artifacts and ways of life.  It's right near the water and the woods, too, so you really feel like you're a part of it.

Oh, and three LaGuardia High School alumni (alumnae?) are in the top 24 of American Idol!!  Go Pia, Karen, & Rachel!