Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thinking Out Loud

So after almost 7 years of homeschooling one child for 8th grade, 1 child from 3rd to 8th grade, and one child from Kindergarten to 5th grade (so far), here's what I figured out:  the 5 main ingredients to successful homeschooling is reading, math, plenty of field trips, a positive home environment, and lots of freedom to pursue interests.  That's essentially it.  For all grades.  And by "successful" I mean whatever it means to each of us, really.  My definition of success is:  the ability to achieve (or have it in them to go for) what they want academically, socially, & emotionally (and in all areas) throughout high school, college, and adulthood.

Reading.  Anything and everything.  Good literature is ideal, "twaddle" is ok, too.  Narration is a good idea with most readings.  It shows you what they retained and lays a foundation for some good writing skills.

Math.  Any program is fine.  Even no program is fine.  Whatever works for your child and gets them to understand the key concepts is good.  Utilize math in daily life (unit pricing, percentage discounts off, budgeting, banking, measuring, etc).  Solidify the basics (addition, subtraction, multiplication, & division) before moving on and the higher math will be so much easier to grasp.

Field trips.  Now I know many people don't live in a big city like we do, but making an effort to scour your area for cool places to go is important - even if you visit the same places over and over again.  Find the museums, gardens, zoos, theater productions, ethnic restaurants, art galleries, state parks, factories, etc.  Check out the fire houses, libraries, police stations, pizzerias, etc and see if you can go behind the scenes to see how they run.

Positive home environment.  This should go without saying.  Be a fun family.  Be encouraging, do things together, have traditions, have good discussions, and really listen to each other.

Freedom to pursue interests.  I believe a child can learn more in 1 hour of doing what he loves than from months of forced seatwork.  My kids' interests can last for years or only a few days.  It's all important, though.  Nurture and facilitate those interests in every way you can.  And know when to back off.

If you can focus on only these 5 things, I can almost guarantee homeschooling success.    Comments?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

NY Botanical Garden and Myachi

W has been keeping very busy with Myachi, reading pokemon books, making more crossbows, karate, CCD, playing outside for hours with the neighbor kids, card tricks, making videos, and playing with his DS.   We'll get back to the formal academic seatwork after the holidays.

We went to FAO Schwarz again last week and W spent the whole time with 2 real Myachi masters - "Metal" and "Monk"  (Monk is on the Myachi packaging and part of the House of Skillz). They taught him new tricks and they spoke what seemed like a foreign language for over 1/2 hour.  It was like there were 3 of my son - they were all on the same wavelength and with the same enthusiasm.  W decided he'd like to work there, too.

After FAO, we met up with B, the girls, and my mom to go to the annual musical at LaGuardia High School.  This year they did Guys & Dolls and it was unbelievable.  It's amazing that these are only high schoolers.  It was like being at a Broadway show.  The sets, the orchestra, the acting and singing - amazing.  

Another cool field trip last week with the homeschool group was to the NY Botanical Garden's Holiday Train Displays and Gingerbread Adventure.  I've always seen that advertised, but never got around to getting there.  We had such a great time.  It was all so beautiful.  They built a bunch of NYC landmarks out of all natural materials (pistachio shells, juniper berries, etc) and trains were whizzing by all of them .  They even made NY bridges and Yankee Stadium.  There was so much to see.  The Gingerbread Adventure had them in a class at 3 different stations learning about gingerbread ingredients and where they come from, then checking out huge beautiful gingerbread houses made locally from different bakeries, then sampling some cookies.  We had a fantastic tour guide who was funny and kept the kids interested.  I loved it!

Last week was also Parent Observation Week at J's school.  B and I gt there at 9am to watch J in both double dance periods.  She has 2 periods of ballet (90 minutes) and another 2 periods of modern dance.  The kids are so beautiful and talented, the teachers are just phenomenal, and I love that there are live musicians.  We left at around noon and grabbed some breakfast at a local cafe near Columbus Circle.  

Just about all my Christmas shopping is done.  It certainly has been a stressful season.  It arrived way too fast this year and I wasn't ready.  Oh well - I just hope my Amazon order gets here before Sunday.  MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!

Here are some more pictures of the trip to the NY Botanical Garden:

Saturday, December 03, 2011


It's December in the city again and I love it.  W and I "did" Manhattan yesterday with some friends.  We decided to follow a direct route and see all of the big store holiday display windows.  We started at Bloomingdales, then headed to Barney's, then Bergdorf Goodman, and Saks 5th Avenue.  Gorgeous and unique windows this year.  We made a couple of pit stops on our journey.  First was FAO Schwarz - the big toy store.  There were 4 19th-century carolers outside and the big toy soldiers greeted us as we entered.  Our next stop was the tree at Rockefeller Center.  We took some more pictures and watched the ice skaters for a bit.  We were on the way to Lord & Taylor and then Macy's, but we stopped in a Barnes & Noble for a rest and a snack.  W and I had $3 bowls of this incredible creamy chicken soup, which was perfect for the cold day.  He wandered off with his friend after that, telling me he felt like reading (?!?!!!).  I got some mom chat time, so that was great.  We spent so much time there, that I couldn't finished the route.  W and I hopped onto the subway, got home, returned our rental car, picked up my car from the collision place (don't ask, lol), got W to karate, picked up J, brought her to the orthodontist, then drove J to a friend's house.  I was ready to pass out when I got home.

Underground RR lantern
Union & Confederate caps
Last week we went to an awesome class all about the Civil War.  All of the kids were so knowledgeable and so eager to participate.  The instructor has a bunch of artifact replicas to show us - the real thing on display at the NY Historical Society.  NY played a pretty big role in the Civil War and the Underground Railroad.  A cool part was when the kids worked in groups and did short presentations.  We saw an old map of New York City (which only comprised of the very downtown area) and discussed how far we've come since then. I have to say, I was really impressed with the level of understanding, participation, excitement, and comraderie I saw that day.  Even the instructor was amazed by these kids.  W remembers so much about the Civil War even 2 weeks later - just from this class.  This is part of the reason I love homeschooling so much - we get to be a part of so many wonderful  and varied learning resources.

Academics have been focused mainly around spelling, reading, and math.  In the last 2 weeks we've gone from equivalent fractions to angles to dividing with decimals.   W is soaking it all in and now that the academics are more relaxed, he's having a lot more fun with everything - which undeniably means he is learning faster and easier.  Spelling Skills and the bridge workbook are going very well.  I think that bridge book is my favorite.  It was my favorite when J was home as well.  The book has these reading comprehension pages - read a passage then answer the questions.  It's the same kind that you'd find on a standardized test.  W did a couple of them.  Wow.  He definitely excels at reading comprehension.  He can pick out the main idea of the story (I always got those wrong in school) and is so confident he knows the answers that he'd rather make up something in his own words rather than go back and copy from the passage.  I'd hate to discourage that beautiful creativity, but he won't be able to do that on a real test.  Sigh.  No wonder schoolkids lose their enthusiasm.

W is also reading a mystery novel, a book about the Pilgrims landing on Plymouth Rock, and will start a book about Thomas Edison next week.  He is spending more time on the independent reading and I don't want to rock that boat.  What he reads is pretty educational, so I don't really care that Captain Underpants is part of his stash, too.  As long as he's reading.

Here are some shots from our walk around Manhattan yesterday:

Bergdorf Goodman

Bergdorf Goodman

Barney's - Lady Gaga display

Along 5th Avenue

Sak's 5th Avenue

Ice skating at Rockefeller Center