Saturday, April 23, 2011


This weekend (and almost all week), W played with his friend Matt from next door (who turns 10 this week).  Nerf gun wars is still the game of choice and thankfully we have a nice backyard to play in.  He also went to the playground for hours, playing basketball and manhunt.

Tuesday Wayfinders in Central Park was lots of fun.  It was a rainy, muddy adventure, and W loved every second of it.  There looked to be about 40 kids - mostly boys between the ages of 9 & 12 (with some older and younger thrown in too).  The premise is a sort of game like Capture the Flag.  Each were given a foam sword (think: pool noodle) and were told to battle and then die like you mean it, rolling on the ground, writhing.  I thought the guides were hysterical.

W went home with one of his best friends and slept over.  On Wednesday, they had an awesome Pokemon party at the house.  Tons of Pokemon decorations, prizes, goody bags, pinata, etc.  The kids wore Pokemon T-shirts, Pokemon was playing on the TV, there was a table with How-To-Draw Pokemon books and tons of paper and colored pencils, and I counted more than 15 kids there.  I got there at around 4pm to pick W up and then go to work. I was so impressed at how this mom put together such a cool party so quickly.  I have party-planning-phobia and get nauseous even thinking about throwing parties.  She inspired me, though.  I may have one myself one day.

Academics this week included the new math workbook.  Flash Kids 4th (and 5th) grade gives a great review of what W has already done in TT5.  The thing I've learned about math is that my kids may have seemed to master a concept, but without continuous practice, it fades a bit.  The review workbook ($6.95 - $5.25 after discount) is a great idea for now before we continue onto pre-algebra.  He'll be reviewing addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, place value, angles, perimeter, area, decimals, graphing, & inequalities.  Then we'll finish up TT5 before the fall and combine that with Flash Kids Grade 5 and he'll do fractions, measurement, percents, exponents, and more advanced versions of the basics (like multiplying with exponents and graphing coordinates).

We also read more of Robin Hood.  The original language is difficult (reminiscent of Shakespeare with it's "dost thou art"s), but I decided to stop paraphrasing.  I now read it as is - with as much inflection as possible - and W gets it.  I asked him what he thought was going on in a certain part and he gave me a great narration, along with his own thoughts on what might happen next.   We're also continuing with Joan of Arc.  We're almost done with that one.  It's not his favorite, but I do try and make the bloody battles really exciting for him, lol.  He did a whole page in the Spelling Skills book.  As he read me the new words, I noticed he said behind for beyond, cannon for cotton, button for bottom.  If I have him slow down and try again, he usually gets it right.  He is definitely getting more right than wrong, though. The 2 spelling activities were classifying and answer the questions.  This gets W to write out the words which helps him remember how they're spelled.

In the Spectrum Phonics & Word Study book W looked at a picture and circled the word as to what the picture was.  Now that sounds simple and I remember similar activities being done in preschool, but again, it was like it was made for him.  One of the pictures was of a desk.  The 4 words given were:  deck, disk, dock, and desk.  W tends not to look beyond the first and last letters, so he chose "deck".  I told him to look at it again and he caught the mistake.  So this is the kind of thing he needs to overcome.  I feel it's because he rushes through his reading and skims over words too quickly, and that causes one word to look like something else.  Thankfully when he reads books he has to backtrack and correct himself or it won't make sense.  The other activity in that book was changed the given word with a new vowel so it makes sense in the sentence.  This can get tricky for him, but he got them all correct.  I love this book. (The one I have is the OLD version with the pig on the cover - NOT the new one with the light blue cover.  The new version has changed the inside contents as well.  I just prefer the 1999 version not the 2006 version).

W also read a few pages of Cricket in Times Square.  He's taking his time with it, which is ok since it's all about understanding.  I'm also thrill about him still loving those Pokemon cards.  He reads them constantly.  One very popular method of helping a slow reader is by having them read nonsense words.  This way they have to use more than just the immediate picture of the word, they have to actually sound it out.  Pokemon is full of that and I don't even have to schedule it into our day! 

The girls love having the week off.  K is more than ready to get to the end of senior year.  She has a meeting next week with an advisor at college to create a schedule for the fall.  Prom is on K's mind all the time, too.  She chose this beautiful dress and MIL offered to pay for the shoes and hair.  In lieu of a limo, about 15 of K's friends will take a party bus to the venue.  I love that idea.  It's huge inside, with a great stereo system, flat-screen TV, refrigerator, and bathroom.  Way cooler than a limo.  The picture to the left shows what the inside generally looks like.  K has also been working and hanging with friends all week.  And we joined a gym together!   We've been going every other day.  I love going with her.   

J has been busy with dance and friends all week.  I spent some more time planning her summer.  Her school requires continuous dancing throughout the summer.  She'll certainly be busy all summer.  She's starting with a workshop in Manhattan for a week, then Nationals for a week with her team, then the rest of the summer is dance almost every day - in Manhattan.  She's so comfortable navigating through Manhattan now.  Subways are easy and she revels in the whole atmosphere. 

On Tuesday this week J was part of a master class with Ellenore Scott (top 4  in season 6 of SYTYCD).  Not many knew about it and only 5 people were in the class.  J brought 2 friends and 2 older girls showed up. Later in the day, Ellenore was giving a master class at Broadway Dance Center, which I know was packed, but this earlier class was at a lesser-known studio.  I thought it was the luckiest thing ever.  So much individual attention and focus.

Happy Easter.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Tuesday's Wayfinders was rained out, but he enjoyed time with friends the whole afternoon anyway.

Wednesday was an all-day set of classes on the Upper West Side.  W checked in at 9:30am and started his day with Cake Decorating.  He learned a lot of new words (like "fondant") and got to eat what they made.  After that was Chess.  It was great that he finally had some good, formal chess instruction.  He plays well, but loved learning some new strategies.  After that was lunch, then Photography.  I gave him my small camera to use in the class.  The instructor showed them how to center a photo, cool things a regular camera can do, etc.  The last class was Cartooning and Graphic Design.  Needless to say, this was his favorite.  The kids came up with ideas for their own comic books and W said he learned some great things.

I spent the whole day in the nearby Barnes & Noble.  6 whole hours to relax and read and browse.  Ah...heaven.  It was Educator's Week, so I got 25% off my purchases.  I got this really cool science book, 2 new novels for W to read (at around the same level as his current book), & 2 Flash Kids math workbooks.  The math workbooks are basic review.  I want him to go over all the 4th grade and 5th grade math.  We still love TT5, but he'd like to switch it up a bit.  We'll go back and forth.  The novels I got for him are:  Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (because he's been on a survivalist kick) and Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli.   The listed reading levels for these books are 6.3 and 5.4 respectively.   This is right where W is right now.   I'm so proud of him.

Friday's music class was called "Mock Rock Band".  The kids got to alternate playing bass guitar, acoustic guitar, and drums trying to make some sort of music with those, lol.   W thought it was really fun.  He's still leaning toward the bass guitar as something he'd like to maybe continue with. 

At Cub Scouts W is working on his Athlete Badge.  There are 20 activity badges for the Webelos to earn - 4 in each category:  Physical Skills, Mental Skills, Community, Technology, & Outdoor. W has already earned most of these.  In the fall he'll move up to being a Boy Scout. 

I'm looking forward to a full academic week.  The girls are off from school, so I don't have too much running around.  W has Wayfinders and a science class scheduled, K will be working, and J has some dance stuff going on.  I can't believe summer's only 2 months away.  This school year went extremely fast.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

4/2 to 4/8

We spent last weekend at my moms's in Long Island.  My hours at work changed so I actually have the weekends off now.

Monday we spent time on some academics - a few readings, narrations,and some math.  He's doing great and seems to be right on track (and above) for just about everything.  We're getting the academics done, but we're spending more time outdoors since the weather has been nicer. 

Tuesday was W's last film class on the Lower East Side.  He had fun with it and learned a lot.  The finished product was cool - a short film with cool effects, lots of explosions, and cute acting.  We start something new on Tuesdays next week - Wayfinders!

Wednesday W started a new series of science classes here in Queens.  It's one-and-a-half hours of classroom time and trail walking each week.  He loves this place and lots of his friends are there, too. 

Thursday we relaxed at  home.  W spent the day modding a few of his Nerf guns, organizing Pokemon cards, and playing his new DS games he got from Grandma on the weekend.

Friday was music class.  This week was voice.  I love when my kids sing and I was right outside the door listening.  I stayed out of sight, lol.  I gotta give a hand to the awesome teacher they had - teaching 3 10-year-old boys to sing can't be easy.  So far they have done violin, piano, guitar, drums, and voice.  I think the idea of getting an introduction to each instrument is so wonderful.  W would never have gotten this anywhere else.  I'm hoping he likes at least one enough to continue.  He's leaning toward bass guitar, but we'll see.

K and J are both doing incredibly well in school.  They both stepped it up a higher notch this spring.  K is so excited to start college in about 4 months.  She took a math placement exam, chose a foreign language, and went to find the dean of the business department to discuss her major and her classes.  In the meantime, she looking forward to prom, graduation, and summer.  J's grades have been in the 90s and 100s and I couldn't be more proud.  She's adjusted to high school beautifully and (knock on wood) there have been absolutely no issues whatsoever.  She has made tons of friends and has been keeping busy.  In addition to the 15 hours a week of ballet & modern at school, she is at her studio taking tap, hip-hop, contemporary, and pointe.  She still teaches her new ballerina babies on Saturday mornings.  There are 3 more regional dance competitions coming up, then the big dance recital, and then Nationals.  I'm really looking forward to a fabulous spring and summer.

Sorry for the lack of pictures lately.  I keep forgetting to bring my camera out with me.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Academics This Week

W took a TT5 math quiz.  It had a little of everything - addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, word problems, inequalities, decimals, and fractions. He knows how to do all those types of problems, but will make the avoidable mistakes like adding wrong or mistaking his messy 0 for a 6.  I gotta start reminding him to take his time and stop getting distracted.  We're starting to really get into division now.  The few lessons he's had so far have pretty much sunk in.  He still enjoys Teaching Textbooks.  I was thinking about trying another spiral program, like Saxon or maybe even a mastery program like MUS, but he seems content to stick with TT for now.

This weeks readalouds were:  Joan of Arc (Stanley) , Macbeth (Lamb), and Robin Hood (Pyle).  The latter two have very difficult language, but I can see that he's finally starting to see past it.  Until recently, W would usually focus on the fact that he didn't  understand certain words and meanings - and that frustration prevented him from even trying to understand the stories.  Now he realizes that these words and phrasings aren't going away and that he has to push through and get underneath them in a sense.  This weeks narrations showed me he is doing just that.  I love seeing things click for him.  With Joan of Arc we used maps to point out England, France, towns, and rivers. Learning geography through the context of our readings is effective and well-retained.  It doesn't even feel like a lesson.

He's also doing great with that Word Study and Phonics workbook.  One page this week was all about words ending in "ind" and "old".  Another was putting the correct word into the sentence from a choice of 3 similar-looking words.  And another one was putting the correct long vowels into certain words in a paragraph.  It is truly unbelievable how this book is hitting on every area W has been struggling with.  Out of everything we've used so far, this workbook is W's favorite thing to do.  I already see so much improvement in his reading ability.  With 'A Cricket in Times Square' he reads silently, but has gotten faster.  I hear him read his math word problems out loud and you'd never know he has an issue with reading.  I'm so proud of how far he's come.

We're reading poetry every day and W still does his copywork from that.  Two lines.  I've notice his  handwriting is getting sloppier as the months go by.  I think it's time to get more focused on that.  He can write neatly if he wants to.  But then again, I'm the same way, lol.