Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy New Year!

It was a great Christmas.  The kids made out very well and I'm proud of myself for not going into any debt.  B and I exchanged presents too - he got me a Kindle Fire and I got him (us, lol) 2 tickets to dinner and off-Broadway show.  So excited to have a date night!

We're staying home for New Year's Eve.  J and a bunch of friends are having a sleepover party, so she won't be home.  K usually goes to a big, swanky, New Year's Eve gala with the boyf,  but they're not going this year.  B and I enjoy being home.  We get a whole bunch of pickin' snacks, some wine, sparkling red grape juice for W, and just veg out.

Wednesday it's back to the grind.  J has school, W and I will start back on the academics, and I'm going to get back into the field trips again.  W starts a new drama/musical theater class on Saturdays before show choir.  They're both within a 10-minute drive of each other so it works out well.

If I can get my work hours changed from evenings to mornings he will also do basketball or soccer 2-3 times a week.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Almost Christmas 12/17-12/23

Christmas cards were mailed on Thursday, presents will all be wrapped today, and I'm looking forward to a wonderful, relaxing week.  We're having Christmas Eve (and Christmas Day) dinner at my mom's house.  She decided on something other than the fish we've been having ever since I married into an Italian family.  I get it - it can be a huge mess and cleaning up that kind of dinner is the last thing we want to do on Christmas Eve.  But B couldn't imagine not having that, so he made it all himself last night instead.  K's boyfriend, J's best friend, and W's friend from next door all came over to eat.  B made crab-stuffed mushrooms, shrimp parmigiana, fried calamari, & stuffed flounder.  K's boyf brought over a red velvet cake from Martha's Bakery (my absolute fave) and a gift for me (a really nice wrought-iron hanging decoration that holds 5 photos).  He's certainly scoring some brownie points with me.

On Thursday, some of W's show choir and a bunch of other kids and adults got together for some street caroling.  We also ventured into some restaurants to sing to the patrons.  A burger place gave us a huge clam-shell of half-moon cookies, a pizzeria gave us all free pizza and soda, and an upscale Italian restaurant gave us a generous donation to help fund a new piano.  We didn't expect anything from anyone, but it certainly reaffirmed my belief in humankind - and that NYC is a friggin awesome place.

So, since I'm anxiously waiting for the day when I can switch my work hours to mornings rather than evenings - mainly so W can be a part of more activities and sports during the week - I decided to start going to the gym with him.  That's right.  They allowed him to take over K's membership (K will be joining a new place more easily accessible for her). The minimum age is 13, but they agreed to let him join since he does look like a teenager.  Eh, he'll be 12 soon.  I'm happy that he'll have a place to go to work out whenever he wants.  And it gets me there too!  I've been slacking lately because K has been so busy with school and work and I don't like going to the gym alone, leaving W at home.  So this seems like the ideal solution.  We'll see how it all works out.  (heh heh, works out...gym, get it?)

Math:  Rounding and estimating review
Language Arts:  Continuing with simple subject/predicate, types of sentences, run-ons, fragments, and another lesson in the dyslexia workbook
Science:  Another really cool experiment.  We put some vinegar into a 2-liter soda bottle.  Then boiled a few leaves of red cabbage until the cabbage water was a deep bluish purple color.  Then W poured that water into the vinegar.  Even though the cabbage water was a deep blue, the vinegar turned it to a bright pink.  He then took a balloon, funneled in about 2 Tbsp of baking soda, and secured the balloon over the top of the soda bottle.  He lifted up the balloon, pouring all the baking soda into the bottle.  This caused the balloon to inflate due to the vinegar reacting with the baking soda - but since the baking soda neutralized all the vinegar, the bright pink color turned back to blue.  It reminded me of how litmus paper works.  W wrote about it in his student notebook and we read about science at the time of the Roman Empire and about alchemy.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

This Week 12/10-12/16

We had a nice week.  Christmas is almost here.  I'm done shopping, I'm sending out my cards in a day or 2, and I've been watching more Christmas movies than ever.   Now I have to magically find about 3 hours to wrap everything.

Here's the academic wrap-up:

Science is so much more fun now.  We did another experiment this week that showed the movement of atoms, this time using hot and cold water.  The drop of food coloring in hot water colored the water quickly, while the drop in cold water just kinda stayed there.  Doing these experiments while reading about what's happening is clicking well with W.  I've always wanted to be creative enough to come up with cool experiments to do that actually correspond with what we were learning.  Now I'm happy to say that someone else thought of it for me, lol.

SOTW went well.  W read the introduction silently.  He narrated back what he remembered and then I asked him the review questions in the activity book.  He still has excellent comprehension - whether it's me reading to him or if he reads independently.  Also, this seems like a good book for him to do written narrations with. We're still feeling it out, but I like it so far.  Next week we'll check out the activities that go with each chapter.

We're on Lesson 16 in Saxon Math and it's still review.  That's good, though.  I'm all about review.  IMO, it's the only way math concepts stick.

W is doing great with the Hake Grammar & Writing.  We have covered types of sentences (declarative, interrogative, imperative, exclamatory), subject & predicate (and simple subject, simple predicate, nouns, & verbs), and fragment & run-on sentences.  He gets it.  All the skills he learned from paragraph editing have carried over and he doesn't forget a thing.  This and the dyslexia workbook are improving his reading and writing so much.   The handwriting, well, it's ok.  It was actually better when he was 7, lol.  I think his thinking is that he knows he can write and focusing on being neat has become way less important than understanding the work.  Now I just ask for legible.  :) 

He started a new season of show choir this weekend, too.  They're doing lots of classic rock n roll stuff again - which W loves.  Eventually I'll see if he'd like to take private lessons there.  The other 5 kids in the choir do.  They are all 11-13 years old (one is a 9 y/o little brother) and are starting to prepare for performing arts high school auditions.  Still not sure what W wants to do.

Sweet Charity at LaGuardia High School was unbelievable, as usual.  That morning I watched J's dance classes at the school.  K and W took the train in with me since we were seeing the show that night.  They went for a nice lunch and then to FAO Schwarz while I was at the school with J.  The dancers there are beautiful.  It's amazing what they learn.  This year besides ballet and modern, they had a semester of jazz.  In January, jazz will be replaced by tap.  J is looking forward to that.  I met up with them around 4:30 in Columbus Circle.  I love how gorgeous the area is over there.  The Time Warner Bldg with the shops is always crazy decorated.  Outside, all the trees are completely wrapped in small, white lights.  Across the street is this awesome craft market.  There must be 100 booths with thousands of handmade items - from flattened glass wine-bottle art to beef jerky to jewelry to fur hats, they have it all.

Photo by Markets of New York City

Monday, December 10, 2012

I Love December

Yay!  I'm so excited we got the book shipment last week.  I normally wouldn't have ordered anything this close to Christmas, but I couldn't wait.  I was just so impressed with both SOTW and Apologia General Science - the samples, the reviews, and the love of science and history they seem to procure.

We started the science first.  On Wednesday we did 2 days worth of "Module 1" (according to the lesson plan) including the experiment.  It was a brief history of science, including what science is, ancient Egyptian medics in 3000 BC, ancient Greek scientists in 500 AD, and the first ideas of atoms.  When we did some questions, W remembered the smallest details of just about everything.  He didn't even mind writing out a several-sentence-long answer to a question in his Student Notebook.  He even wanted to look up more info about papyrus.

The experiment was fun.  I'm glad I bought the lab kit so I have all the major materials for the experiments.  I know I would never go out and buy the individual things we need.  You can't just go out and buy one small balloon, or 1/4 cup of corn syrup, or 5 thumb tacks.  I would end up spending a fortune on full packages if things.  And each module's materials come in it's own labeled ziplock baggie!  Fits my Type-A personality perfectly.  So, imo, the $75 was well worth it.   Anyway, the first experiment was called "Density in Nature".  W poured oil, water, and corn syrup in a tall, clear glass.  All 3 liquids separated right away.  I remember doing a similar experiment when I was little, but it still fascinates me to see it.  Then he dropped in a small rock, a peeled clove of garlic (we ran out of grapes, but this worked perfectly), an ice cube, and a cork.  Each item suspended itself in a different layer.  This demonstrated the density of each liquid, which told us how loosely or tightly their atoms are packed together.  W loved it.  Yay.

We are starting Story of the World 1 next week.

 Math is still going very well.  W is learning new concepts so quickly and his mental math skills are right on.  I owe a lot of that to the 4 function drills we did over the summer.  I believe mastering the basics has been the best thing we've done.  So far W has been reviewing things like fractions, lines perimeter, graphs, place value, inequalities, and negative numbers.  There are also a lot of word problems.  He is learning to take his time reading through it so he understands what it's asking.  This is a challenge.  He has a tendency to either skip or insert words or completely misread words when they look like other words.  Recent ones include "navigate" for "negative" and "ingredient" for "integer".  Word problems do force him to be more accurate, which in turn improves his reading skills overall.  We stretch 1 math lesson out over 2 days.  At the rate we're going we should finish Saxon 7/6 by next December.

We're taking the Hake Grammar just as slowly: 1 lesson over 2 days.  I refuse to rush.  It is way more important for W to fully understand everything rather than hurry him through a book just to be able to say it's completed.  For W (and my girls too), 30-minute bite-sized chunks chewed slowly and savored are much better retained than 1-2 hour cram and binge lessons.  And on that note, we've also started breaking the dyslexia workbook lessons into 2 days as well.  It's getting a little harder and the last thing W needs is to get frustrated about reading.

W had his show choir recital the other day.  There are 6 kids, they sang 5 songs, and W had a solo part!  He did 2 shows.   J's studio performed a reinvented "Nutcracker" show on Sunday.  They only practiced for about a month, but it was the cutest thing.  J played the Arabian dancer and was in 4 other parts as well (party-goer, soldier, snowflake, candy something).  All the costumes were from previous competition numbers.  I loved it and I want to watch it every year, lol.

I think we'll be taking some more breaks throughout December.  I want to get into Manhattan for the Christmas stuff:  Rockefeller Plaza, FAO Schwarz, Columbus Circle, store windows, etc.  Two other things I'm looking forward to this we are:   Parent Observation Week and "Sweet Charity" at Laguardia High School!   I can't wait!!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Time to Simplify

Now that we've pretty much gotten through the first third of the school year, I have a better idea as to what is working, what isn't working, and what new things I'd like to try with W.  If someone a few years ago would have told me I would be using Saxon, Hake, Apologia, and Story of the World one day, I'd say they were crazy.  But that's where we are now.  Like I said before, if W decides to attend public high school, he wants to be completely ready.  He's looking forward to some new stuff, and I'm looking forward to more structure.  The good thing about what we've chosen is that most of it continues through high school.  For now, though, here's our plan for the remainder of 6th grade.

6th Grade
  • Hake Grammar & Writing 6
  • Daily Paragraph Editing Gr. 6+
  • A Workbook for Dyslexics
  • Spelling Skills 5 and 6
  • Read & Understand Poetry Gr. 5-6+
  • Classic Literature (various) with oral and written narrations
  • Saxon Math 7/6
  • Story of the World 1 (This will be independent reading and we'll be using the activity book with it)
  • Apologia General Science (along with the Student Notebook, the Daily Lesson Plans, the companion CD Rom, and the full lab kit.  We may stretch this into 7th grade)
  • Artistic Pursuits Junior High Book 1 (1st half)

I'm excited to try these new things and I hope W likes them as well.  It's easier to stay with a program year after year rather than having to keep looking aimlessly for what might fit.  We may hate everything after a few weeks or we may love it and use it all the way through high school.  You never know what's in store for next year.  

In the meantime, W is doing very well academically.  He is doing a lot more creative and dictation writing, aces his 2x/week spelling tests, and is a natural at math.  He has always been great at reading silently - he is quick and has full comprehension.  And I have noticed recently that his out-loud reading has improved tremendously over the last couple of months.  This is huge.  It seems he has learned to "fix" most of the reading issues he was having.  He still does these things - but just a lot less often.  It's wonderful to see his confidence now.  That's one of the reasons I'm going to start with SOTW 1 - it's an easy independent read.  I may even use it for more readaloud practice.

We're really looking forward to Christmas!  I have about 75% of my shopping done and we'll be decorating the house this weekend.  I have already decided that the new year will be all about simplifying everything in my life.  I want to live as materially minimalist a lifestyle as possible.  I'll begin with a huge decluttering this weekend.  I'm so ready.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Writing, Schedules, & J

Ever since the storm, we've cut back on our field trips and have been spending more time on academics.  W is doing wonderfully with Saxon Math.  I still can't believe I didn't try it sooner.  As far as reading, it seems that persistence, a varied choice of resources, and one-on-one interaction is working wonders. We're using the dyslexia workbook, paragraph editing, the 6th-7th grade bridge book, websites, and tons of hands-on and life-skills learning experiences.  Reading is everywhere in everything and W has firmly refused to be an outsider looking in.

W has also started writing essays.  Up to now, his writing has been made up of simple narrations, lists, and workbook stuff.  Orally narrating back what we read together was (is) also a part of learning to write creatively.  This week I decided to go for more.  W's first essay was about why he thinks he should get a new laptop for Christmas.  Apart from some basic technical stuff, it was very good.  He hand-wrote that one.  The second essay he did this week was a more involved narration on a bio of Thomas Edison.  This one was typed out.  Again, some spelling and sentence structure need some work, but overall it was a great essay.  He seems to naturally know how to be continuous and creative with a defined beginning, middle, and end.  So, do I need to bust out the writing workbooks?  Do I need to teach him the 5-point essay?  He's doing great on his own.  J was never taught the mechanics of writing and she consistently gets As on papers.  I think I'll go with my gut on this one and let him develop his own writing style.  

I have also come up with a new schedule for science and social studies.  I've decided to just follow the Worldbook layout for 6th grade (like my IHIP says anyway) but we'll alternate science and social studies every 2-3 weeks.  We had just spent a few weeks on classification of living things and basic ecology.  Next week is social studies and we'll take a few weeks learning about some continents, countries and cultures.  Then, the next couple of weeks will be all about microbes, algae, and fungi (then 2 weeks on Native American culture, then 3 weeks on the Human Body, and so on until June).  We'll be using text books, workbooks, documentaries, field trips, websites, projects, etc.  I plan on making this as fun and interesting as possible.  We'll see how it goes.

I think for 7th grade I'd like to try Apologia Science.  Although I do prefer a more secular approach, I like how the series is set up.  We'll try their General Science and if we like it, we may use the rest of the years as well.  Since W is still unsure about public high school, I'm making sure to get all my ducks in a row just in case he opts out.

We went into Manhattan on Thursday to go to FAO Schwarz.  W loves that store.  We don't go to buy toys, it's just so fun to wander around and experience everything.  W hung out with the Myachi guy for a while, learning new tricks and getting some cool advice.  I love that the creators of this toy are the ones in the store demonstrating it for everyone.  After she got out of school, J walked over to FAO to meet us.  We hit the second floor of the store together (she loves it, too) and then we went for lunch at TGI Fridays.  This weekend J had 2 birthday parties:  a sweet 16 in Staten Island and a celebration in Bryant Park with ice skating.  She is working the dance auditions again tomorrow at her school.  The dance director said she did a great job last weekend and should return this weekend - and then 2 more weekends in December.  J enjoys it a lot.  She said all the 8th graders look so little and that she feels like it was just yesterday when she was auditioning. At the studio, she's still learning some new choreography for the season.  They're doing a brief version of The Nutcracker in a couple of weeks, too (J is the Arabian dancer).

I'm so excited for the holidays.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Halloween Sandy

Well OK then.  What a strange week.  NYC just had the biggest storm and most destruction...ever.  I'm lucky, though.  I live in a virtually unscathed part of Queens.  There were huge trees down everywhere, no public transportation, and closed roads, but we still had power.  By day 2, the downed trees were chopped up and either loaded onto trucks or moved off the roads.  The roads were clear to drive - I drove to work on Tuesday and Wednesday - no problem - not even one delay.  The lingering problems now are that no gas stations have gas and we are on empty.  Also, the subways are actually up and running already (although nothing below 34th St in Manhattan, which doesn't affect us) but there are delays.  We're also lucky that B had off from work all week, K & J are off from school (and dance) all week, and K works in walking distance.

J posing with the tree in the road

On the other hand, about 80% of people I know are still without power and/or flooded (including my mom & sister out in Long Island).  J and her friends plan on donating clothes and books to the folks in Breezy Point (Queens) who got hit pretty badly - 80 homes burned down and the whole neighborhood is just gone.  It's so great to see most neighborhoods come together and say they're grateful their families are safe and that they plan on rebuilding and getting their neighborhoods back together.  On the other hand, you see people in other neighborhoods who complain, loot, do nothing, and demand others help them.  It's a weird contrast to see on the news.  Most places in NYC are, thankfully, the grateful, get-things-done type and because of that, they will probably get the most donations and help.

Halloween was in full-force around here, despite being in this "aftermath".  We must have had over 100 kids trick-or-treat at my house.  W had a great time trick-or-treating with his friends.  His football player costume was just his jersey and black lines under his eyes, but it looked great (W has always kept his costumes low key - sometimes just a new mask every year worn with a hooded sweatshirt - scary and creepy is his usual Halloween tactic).  He then helped MIL give out her candy, sitting on her porch with the aforesaid mask and hooded sweatshirt and huge candy bowl in his lap.

J got together with some friends and they all dressed up as ninja turtles.  They went around trick-or-treating, too (lol).  K has been getting over a cold and fever all week.  She went to a big Halloween party at a club in Brooklyn last weekend dressed all in black with Dia de los Muertos face makeup.  She looked awesome.  She feels better today and went to work.

We laid off most of the academic bookwork this week.  The girls and B have been home, so we couldn't really get anything done.  Today we picked things up again, though.  W did some of his dyslexia workbook, some Saxon Math, some paragraph editing, and right now, B is reading a chapter of Prince Caspian to him.  W's Monday animation class was cancelled and will pick up next week.  I'm planning on driving out to my mom's tomorrow to see my aunt who's visiting from out of state (great week for her to come, lol), but with no gas, I'm not sure what to do.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Settling In & Keeping Busy

We've been having a nice quiet few weeks, spending a bit more time on academics and getting ready for all the holidays.  I have a whole list of Halloween stuff to do around Queens.  There are a bunch of festivals, parades, haunted houses, performances, and craft workshops going on.  Now I just need to work some of these in around everyone's busy schedule.  I bought 3 nice-sized pumpkins last week and all 3 kids carved their own masterpiece.  They helped each other and had so much fun together.  K made a Cheshire cat, J made Jack Skellington, and W made a happy jack-o-lantern face.  It was so nice to witness. Oh, and I'm glad I got a few pics because they went moldy after only a week (the pumpkins, not the kids).

W is back at both CCD and Youth Choir.  Both groups joined forces this past weekend and W sang at a festival at the church where he has CCD.  He had his first solo part in a song and he sang with a microphone in front of hundreds of people!  Singing may actually turn out to be his "thing".  I'll take him as far with it as he'd like to go.  This should be interesting.

He has been doing great with Saxon 76, really enjoys Channel One News and Prince Caspian, and seems to be cultivating a brand new love of science after starting Science Essentials.  I'm hoping this continues because we can do so many cool things with science.  Experiments, nature study, and field trips are high on my list.  We also started a new book called "Read & Understand Poetry".  We have been studying poetry since W was in first grade, but this book really gets you into the poems.  There are various questions and writing prompts that go with the poem.  He answered all the questions thoughtfully and correctly and he's getting some good writing practice in, too.  He gets it - he can read a poem and know and feel the meaning behind it.  But the big surprise hit of the week was the paragraph editing book.  What a wonderful and fun way to cover reading, spelling, vocabulary, and grammar.  He has really taken to it.  We always did this kind of editing in his Spelling Skills book and this has the same idea and uses the same symbols, but with many more.  Correcting mistakes is something he's very good at.  It's laid out with a set of 4 separate paragraphs that stay on one informative topic. He does one paragraph per day.

J is doing well in high school again this year.  She loves it so much.  She has such school pride - one of her friends is now a regular on Homeland and another friend is on The Voice (2 other LaGuardia HS alum are also on the show this season).  She's trying to be as involved in the school as she can.  She's auditioning for several things and will be working the dance auditions this year for incoming students.  In other dance news, she will be going to another dance teacher event this weekend with the studio owner and 2 other teachers-in-training, is heavy into choreography for the new season, getting ready for next month's competition, working on her new solo she's choreographing, and coming up with weekly lesson plans and choreo for the 3 classes she teaches on Saturdays.  She is incredibly busy and handles everything so responsibly.

K is enjoying her second year of college so far.  She's still figuring out what exactly she'd like to do when she graduates, but she's got plenty of time.  She has a few ideas on how she'd like her life to play out:  college and trade school, work as much as possible before marriage and kids, then work from home while raising kids.  It sounds like a great plan to me.  I know she can do whatever she sets her mind to.  I have to say I'm so grateful to be blessed with kids that always make me proud.

Sunday, October 07, 2012


We are in a nice daily groove now.  The Channel One News program is a hit.  We watch it every day.  Ten minutes of current events sets off a stream of questions and discussions for the day.  Saxon Math - I wasn't keen on trying it at first.  All these years I've avoided it, hearing it was too rigid, too plain, too tedious, etc.  Turns out, after trying everything from Life of Fred, to Teaching Textbooks, to every bookstore shelf math book, Saxon is the one he likes the most.  Who knew?  We are going through it slowly, about 1-2 lessons per week.  My goal is to make sure he understands and remembers.  Math is one of those things that build upon itself - especially in the early years.  You have to have a firm, solid foundation of the basics or anything beyond that will be more difficult than it should be.  We spent all summer on addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division drills.  He wasn't crazy about it, but he saw the value in it once he could speed through 30 problems in 10 minutes.  Now he's learning a new concept with each chapter and he really gets it.    This week was order of operations and fractional parts.  I like the pace of the lessons and the way it explains the concepts.

This week we went back to A Workbook for Dyslexics.  We've used that 3x this week.   W is reading the words and sounds quickly, writing out dictated sentences properly, and taking an 18-30 word spelling test in each lesson.  We finish a lesson in one sitting which takes about 20 minutes.  W's improvements in reading have been remarkable.  He still just guesses at unfamiliar large words and names, writes some letters backwards, and gets so physically drained in a short period of time, but overall he's still on grade level in spite of his dyslexia.  Even the neurologist said that based on his scores, he shouldn't be able to do what he can do.  That gives me such hope that we can overcome this and having dyslexia won't get in the way of him succeeding at anything he puts his mind to.

Prince Caspian is also going well.  I'm really happy W likes this series of books.  I read it to him and he narrates.  I want him to realize that reading can be really fun and interesting and that the whole world opens up to someone who enjoys reading.  He still won't read for pleasure, but maybe this will give him that spark to want to pick up something on his own.  We are also reading The Complete Book of World History together.  It's for 4th-8th grade and it's laid out well.  We're at the beginning with early man and I think we'll make a visit to the Museum of Natural History to get an up-close, hands-on study of these chapters.  Soon I'll give him the book to read on his own and do chapter summaries.  He is still also reading silently for 20-minutes a day - whatever he wants.  He needs to get more into the habit of reading on his own.  

After we settle into this schedule a little more, I'll add back field trips, nature study, and art to fill out the rest of the week.  And I just ordered 4 more books:  one on understanding poetry, one on paragraph editing, one on science, and one on US history.  I feel so good about how things are going so far.   

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Brooklyn Bridge Park

This week we went back to Brooklyn Bridge Park for another class on seining in the East River.  The water was so pretty with soft, rolling waves - perfect for wading in.  We seined in the spring and now we wanted to see what we'd find in the fall.  The instructors told us different species are there in different seasons. The kids and adults pulled the nets in about a dozen times.  Every time, all the kids would run over and try to see anything alive.  It was fun.  Some of the animals we found were cone jellies, silver something (can't remember the name), blue crabs, and sea squirts.

Hauled in from the East River

Academics this week:
Saxon Math 7/6 (variables & order of operations), Channel One News (W likes it better than CNN Student news), Prince Caspian readaloud w/narration (ch. 1.), Silent reading (W's book of choice.  At this point I don't care what it is as long as he's reading.  So, Diary of a Wimpy Kid it is.), Spelling Skills 5 (definitions, grouping), Simply Grammar (subject/predicate), & The Everything American History Book w/narration (Mayans, Aztecs, Incas, Spanish conquistadors).

Monday, September 24, 2012

Solar Power!

We met up with the homeschool group on Friday at Solar1 (a green energy center).  The kids learned about sustainability and renewable energy.  The Solar1 building is cozy and is powered fully by solar energy - the whole roof is paneled.  The kids all sat around a table while watching a slide-show with one of the instructors explaining various types of energy and how they're used.  The kids asked and answered a lot of questions and worked in groups figuring out in what time period certain energy sources were used.  Then they each got to make their own solar-powered car.  These were great and went so fast.  They raced each other and figured out how to short-circuit the wires so it won't run and how to switch the circuits so it goes backwards.  W loved it and I'm sure he learned so much.  We were right on the East River and it was beautiful.

Discussing energy sources

W's solar-powered car

Right outside Solar1

This week's academics went very well.  W helped me tweak our schedule and we had a nice flow all week.  Each day, we watched and discussed CNN Student News, he did a few pages of Saxon Math, I read something to him and he gave a spoken or written narration, he did 1 lesson in one of the language arts workbooks (spelling, grammar, vocabulary, etc), he read a book silently for 20 minutes or so (right now it's a bio of Thomas Edison).  And Friday was a field trip.  Throughout the week, W did some science and cooking experiments, watched a few documentaries, did plenty of artwork, played basketball, tag, and X-box with friends on the block, and went to choir (he may have a solo this session!).

I took W and K out for our annual start of fall breakfast.  This time it was at IHOP.  I hadn't been there in at least 8 years.  I forgot how great it is.   J danced in a street fair on Sunday with the whole studio company.  Several hundred people came over to watch!  It was a nice set of their best stuff from last season.  This season is well under way with lots of new choreography.  I think I'm hearing that the first competition will be before the end of the year!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

September is in Full Swing

I'm feeling pretty good about the start of this school year.  I have resigned myself to the fact that we just do not follow any particular homeschool style or method.  We just do what we do, taking a little from everything.  We are unschoolers, we are classical, and we follow Charlotte mason.  As long as it continues to be effective and everyone's happy, then who really cares about labels?

W and I are both still happy with the daily plan we decided on.  Now that we've been implementing it for over a week, I can say it's working well.  We have 4-5 daily activities and then W picks another 2 things to do out of a list of about ten.  The mornings are a lot more efficient and enjoyable when W has input and choices.  J was the same way.

This week's math was a review of multiplication and division, going over words like:  factor, dividend, divisor, addend, sum, product, difference, and quotient.  Then he did a bunch of examples using the 4 basic functions in all different ways (with decimals, money signs, fraction bars, and parentheses).  He prefers to work out his math problems using graph paper.  I think it's great - it keeps everything lined up and he zips through it more quickly than with regular notebook paper.  He then read a one-page story out loud each day to me.  He used his blue colored overlay and can now read aloud very smoothly with hardly any stumbles.  Then we did the discussion questions on the bottom of the page.  And the daily CNN Student News site has been interesting and fun so far.

We read the introduction and first chapter of Age of Fable, a chapter of Minn of the Mississippi, a chapter of Physics Lab in the Home, and a chapter of The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe.  He did a lesson in his dyslexia workbook, Spelling Skills, & in Simply Grammar.  He started youth choir on Saturday and CCD starts in a couple of weeks.

I still have no idea if W wants to start school next year, in 2-3 years, or if at all.  I am remaining completely open to whatever he decides.  No stress.  No matter what he wants to do, I know it will be wonderful for him.  I have dozens of links saved and I've researched almost everything I could find about all the "good" schools and also about homeschooling high school.  So I'm ready (and he will be ready) no matter what.

J's junior year of high school is going really well so far.  She has all her academics (math, English, history, science) and lunch in the first 5 periods of the day and her 4 dance classes are in the afternoon.  Dance is made up of double periods of ballet and modern and this year she's also doing theater jazz, tap, and a choreography workshop.  At her dance studio she's taking lyrical ballet, tap, pointe, Pilates, contemporary, and a jumps & turns technique class. New competition season choreo will include hip-hop, musical theater, and jazz as well.  I love a new dance season.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Finance & The Fed

This week's fabulous double field trip was to the Museum of American Finance for a class on Banking in America, then we got to go on a tour of the NY Federal Reserve.

The class on banking was so informative.  The instructor talked about the history of money (in colonial America up to present times), recessions, depressions, stocks, loans, mortgages, foreclosures, Bernanke, bailouts, how banks earn profits, and the purpose of the Federal Reserve.  The kids, as usual, were very engaged, asked and answered lots of questions, and even the parents got a lot out of it.

The whiteboard in the banking class

A couple of blocks away is the NY Federal Reserve.  I love the whole Wall Street/Financial District area.  The narrow streets are full of cafes, historical landmarks, and beautiful architecture everywhere you look. "The Fed" is where a lot of new money is made (literally) and where US monetary policy is implemented.  We took an elevator down to the vault which lies 80 feet below street level (and 50 feet below sea level).  It's underneath the bedrock of Manhattan.  This vault holds over $500 billion in gold - more than 90% belonging to other countries.  The security is amazing.  There are cameras everywhere, a 90-ton steel cylinder door to the vault room, and a different person is needed to open each of the 3 locks with both a key and a combination.  We got to go through the open cylinder door to the vault room and we saw stacks of gold bars (each one weighing over 20 lbs, and at around $1600 per ounce right now, they're worth about $600,000 each).  Btw, if the cylinder closed and locked us in, there's enough air to last 72 hours.

Great day, great friends, great trip.  W and I loved it.

I also took this picture of Federal Hall, which is the birthplace of American government and where George Washington took his oath as the first president.  It's a standout structure right on Wall Street and is right across the street from the NY Stock Exchange.

Federal Hall

Sunday, September 02, 2012

The Future

As structured and prepared for high school that I want to be this year, I'm taking into account that W still does have a learning disability.  I got the report the other day.  In a nutshell, it states he has severe visual processing and visual-motor difficulties.  Auditory and perceptual skills are in the superior range.  So that pretty much lines up with what I thought it was - visual dyslexia.  It seems he has dysgraphia, too.  I'm going to speak with the neuropsych this week to go over the results in more detail.  I can't imagine what being in school is like for kids like this.  What a frustrating situation.  At least at home W has kept his intense curiosity, enthusiasm for life, and love of learning.  He reads (and retains) on grade level, writes legibly, can type up a proper story, is great at math, and knows a helluva lot about a helluva lot of things.  The freedom to move at his own pace without deadlines and demands is what works with him.  How on earth can a school - especially a high school - accommodate W effectively?  I feel without a doubt that homeschooling has always been the best option for him.  I have a feeling it may be the best option for high school as well.  I'm leaving the choice up to him, though.  Whatever he decides is fine and he has my 100% support.

So, after doing a ton of research I realize that many of these types of learning disabilities tend to only be an "issue" in a school setting.  Yeah, W reads slower and writes with more difficulty than most other kids his age, but his creativity and self-motivation are through the roof.  Throwing rigid structure at a kid like that every day just isn't going to work.  Getting that neuropsych report was almost like a slap in the face, telling me to stop worrying about a structured curriculum and let the kid just learn.  I think from now on I'll just present him with the books and tools scheduled for the week and he can choose what (if any) he'd like to use.  Pushing my agenda on him if he is not interested in the subject will stress us both out and he'll learn nothing from it.  Now that I know what the official diagnosis is, I have a better sense of what will be more effective.

He likes workbooks, most readalouds, science experiments, consumer math, art, field trips, gaming, making films, building things, and skill toys/games (Rubiks cube, yoyos, cards, miachi, diablo, cats cradle, cup stacking, etc).  But most of all he likes independence.  The unschooling side of him always shows through no matter what I try.  I'm ok with that.  W's real education is going to only come from what interests him, anyway.  My old unschooly self is telling me it's the only way to do things.  I'll loosen up and see what happens.

I don't know what each day will hold but I'm looking forward to finding out.

Grant's Tomb & Hamilton Grange

We met up with the homeschool group the other day for a double field trip.  Our first stop was to Grant's Tomb (General Grant National Memorial).  The ranger told us all about Grant's life.  I found it very fascinating.  He summed it up with the fact that Grant wanted to be buried in NYC and make sure his wife would be buried next to him.  We then walked into the memorial and looking down, we saw the 2 coffins together, surrounded by several wreaths of flowers.  It was touching.

Grant's Tomb
Inside the Grant Memorial

The ranger knew everything about Grant's life

The resting place of General Grant and his wife

All of us then walked 20 blocks uptown to Hamilton Grange.  This is the actual home Alexander Hamilton lived in.  It has been moved from its original location twice and has been restored mostly to its original state (they have put in bathrooms and changed where a staircase was to make it more visitor-friendly).  We watched film on his life and a film on how they moved the house to its current location.

A beautiful church across the street from the Grange

Alexander Hamilton's 1802 home

The main dining room in Hamilton's house (with original centerpiece tray)

This is on the wall inside the main entrance

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A New School Year

K started her sophomore year of college on Monday.  Her first day of school always makes me teary and emotional.  She has a clearer idea as to what she wants to do with her life and she's on the right track.  I'm so proud of her.  She has a great work ethic and is determined to succeed.

J starts school next Thursday.  I told her that Junior year of high school is going to be the toughest one yet.  Besides her regular high school classes (4 academic, 4 dance), there's the SATs, her Junior dance project, school performances, a Sunday afternoon theater jazz & tap workshop in Manhattan, and also a full load at her dance studio.  She will be teaching and choreographing on Saturdays as well as having around 8 hours a week of technique classes and choreo.  We're going to Nationals next summer, so we're carefully choosing our Regional competitions this year.  I'm excited for another school and dance year!

W is enjoying what's left of summer.  He's outside playing every day with his friends on the block and going to the playground for some soccer and basketball.  We are doing pretty well with academics, too.  He's still doing math drills, the dyslexia workbook, listening to some Narnia (almost done with LWW!), and we've started some AO Yr 4 books.  We're stepping into academics slowly and should be ready to go full-force next week.  I'm still waiting for his evaluation report.  I guess this is what goes along with it being free.  But after spending a couple of hours researching more things about dyslexia yesterday, I've figured out that W has "visual dyslexia" or "dyseidetic dyslexia".  This is different from "dysphonemic" or "auditory dyslexia".  So technically, this means I don't really need to be doing any type of phonics work with him.  The workbook I have touches on everything, and since he likes it and I'm seeing a great deal of progress in him, we're going to continue with it anyway.

I can smell Fall in the air!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Daily Plan

Since I'm figuring on spending an extra hour on daily academics this year, I've been trying to come up with a daily schedule for 4-5 days/week.  Here's what I'm thinking about:
  • CNN Student News - This is a 10-minute news video made just for tweens and teens.  Although we discuss current events often, This will cover more.
  • Saxon 76 - I like this program so far.  W has been doing drills in the test booklet on the 4 basic math skills all summer.  He can now do 50 problems in less than 10 minutes.  He does this 3x a week.
  • 1-2 Readings with oral & written narrations
  • Add to history timeline - We'll keep this up on the wall and add to it whenever we read about an important event or person.  If we feel like doing a book of centuries this year, we'll just transfer the timeline info into it and add pictures.   
  • A Workbook for Dyslexics: - LOVE this book.  It's making such a difference in W's reading and spelling.  We are on the 6th or 7th lesson and I can't believe how much W has improved overall.
And then he chooses another 2 things from:

Wordly Wise 6
Simply Grammar
Spelling Skills 5, 6
Artistic Pursuits
Nature Study
Science Experiment

Music from current composer will play quietly during seatwork and works by current artist will be up on the wall for all 12 weeks.  Facts about them, the current poet, and the history timeline will also be up on the wall.

A few times a month we go on a field trip.  Before we go, we'll prepare by reading about the place we're going or the subject matter.

I think this is a thorough, manageable plan that's not overwhelming. Everything on the list will take from 10 to 30 minutes each.  I'm sure we'll tweak once we get into it.

Still no word from the neuro lab on W's dyslexia testing.  It's been almost 6 weeks.  It's so hard to wait.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

911 Memorial

We went with the homeschool group to the 911 Memorial yesterday.  It's beautiful.  The fact that it was raining made it all so quiet and contemplative and sad.  There are 2 large, square waterfall pools that sink into the ground bordered on all 4 sides with the names of everyone who died that day.  These pools are in the exact place where the towers stood.  All the trees in the memorial were grown near all 3 attack sites in NYC, VA, & PA.  Family and friends placed bouquets of flowers on their loved ones' names.  A few blocks away is the 911 Memorial Preview Site.  It's kind of a gift shop with a lot of memorabilia and photos.

Going to the site hit me harder than I thought it would.  In the early 90s I worked as a temp for several months in one of the towers.  I ate lunch in the Winter Garden and loved walking around the area.  I think a lot of non-NY'ers thought of the World Trade Center as just a huge monument for tourists.  But it was so much more than that.  Such a tremendously sad loss for our country.  There are new buildings in construction now, including the Freedom Tower and a memorial museum.  I'm glad it's taking a long time to create.  It has to be right.

Trinity Church - 300 years old!  It's around the corner from the memorial

One of the new buildings

The South Pool

W at the South Pool and one of the new buildings

Another view of the South Pool

In the 911 Preview Site 

Friday, August 03, 2012

Fashion Show!

Yay it's August.  One step closer to autumn!

J spent a couple of days at the Dance Teacher Summit at the NY Hilton.  She was part of the Fashion Forward dancewear runway show.  She strutted and danced on the stage and down the catwalk modeling some of the 2013 dancewear line.  The first day was all fittings and rehearsals.  The second day was the show.  Some parts were choreographed and some parts were J doing her own thing on the runway.  Ray Leeper (who awarded J a "Standout in Jazz" scholarship at NUVO a few months back) and Mia Michaels were there, too.  It was a great experience.

J on the runway in Revolutions Dancewear

Academics around here have still been pretty light.  We're trying to keep a steady 3 days a week.  Here's how it's been going:

Saxon Math 76:  W is doing lots of simple arithmetic drills - now he zips through it in minutes with no errors.
Wordly Wise:  We're taking our time with the first chapter, going over the vocabulary words thoroughly.  I had this weird epiphany the other day - W is a pretty good speller, out loud.  He was spelling words like "contribute", "affection", and "appeal" without error and pretty confidently.  Hmm.  I like the writing exercises it has, too.
A Workbook for Dyslexics:  I like what this book does.  A lot of sound repetition - both reading and writing.  
A summer bridge (5th going into 6th) book:  there is such a myriad of activities in these books.  He's done mapwork, geography, a logic problem, reading comprehension questions, and grammar.
Narnia:  We're trying to do 3-6 chapters a week for now.

Nothing yet from the neurophysiology people.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Raw Food & W's EEG

Summer is half-way over and it's been good.  The NYC heat waves I can do without, though.  I think in August I'm going to start decorating for fall.  It's my favorite time of year and maybe I can get it here faster by the power of thought (and orange fabric leaves and scarecrows). I've decided to throw myself into the holidays this year.  Last year I was a pill and avoided most things.  I don't know why.  I mean, I wouldn't even listen to Christmas music.  So, now I'm ready to decorate, blast music, and do some fabulously fun holiday things with my family.  Bring it on!

The other evening I went to an amazing raw food demonstration given by Dayna Martin and Christina Cretella.  One of my homeschool mom friends hosted the event at her home.  It was so fun!  I've always been interested in a raw food diet and this inspired me again.  We had chocolate desserts, pad thai, soup, smoothies, wine, nachos, pancakes, and salad with a wonderful creamy dressing - all raw.  I'm planning on making a lot of these for my family, especially the desserts.  I love that the chocolate torte we had was actually healthier than eating a salad.  And you can eat these all day long without worry.  That's my kind of eating!  I am going to start out with only a few things that I'm almost positive my family will like:  a chocolate dessert - raw cacao nibs inside dates & coated with coconut, the salad dressing, green juices, and fruit smoothies.  I have to get all of us eating better.  The kids are wonderfully receptive to this.  Dh, on the other hand, needs a LOT of time to adjust.  I just have to be determined and focused and not give up.  Slowly we may be able to evolve into 50% raw.  That's the goal for now.  We'll see.

Dayna and Christina

W completed his part in the dyslexia study at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.  We were there over 6 hours.  W put on headphones, rested his chin on a strap, and watched and listed to certain images and videos while his eyes were being tracked and his hearing tested.  In an adjacent room there were several large computers showing extreme close-ups of W's eye.  It was fascinating.  The next part of the study included putting what looks like a swim cap (with dozens of small plastic-rimmed holes) on his head.  They squeezed a bit of gel into each hole, and attached an electrode to each hole.  Each electrode had a long wire attached to it that plugged into a machine.  They studied his brain waves and recorded which part of the brain is used during each task.  I was watching all this from another room and through glass, so it's hard to get specific.  They sprung for lunch again, too.  I worried for W since he was performing tasks for over 2 hours at a time, but he came out in great spirits.  At the end he was tired, but the $78 cash they gave him perked him right back up again.  We still weren't told anything about the initial testing.  It may be another month, they said.  I'm totally fine with that since this really was a gift for us.  

The Lab

Getting fitted with electrodes

Academically this week, W continued with the Saxon math addition drills, we're up to chapter 6 in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and we started Wordly Wise 6.  This summer is just a light taste of what we'll be doing in the fall, when everything gets more rigorous.  

Friday, July 13, 2012

Dyslexia Testing

This was finally the week that W got his dyslexia testing.  We drove up to the Bronx, met with the neurophysiologist, and started the 4+ hours of testing.  W sat in a small air-conditioned room with the tester while I watched through a 2-way mirror and filled out a ton of forms.  He did all kinds of tests:  spelling, listening, blocks, writing, word sounds, logic, patterns, etc.  He got a few 5-minute breaks and about 45 minutes for lunch (which they generously bought for us).  When he was done, he was given $54 cash, which he was thrilled with.

The neurologist told us she has to sit with the tester and go over all tests.  It could take a while.  The next step would be to take part in a brain wave scan as part of a dyslexia study.  We already met the EEG guy who went over what it is he does and what W would do if he's eligible for the study.  It's basically just  performing a bunch of tasks and computer activities to see which parts of the brain is used while wearing something that resembles a shower cap that they attach dozens of wires to.  The only kids eligible for the brain wave study are dyslexics.  The neurologist said she won't have a full diagnosis for a week or 2, but just by a quick once-over of W's responses, she thinks he's a candidate.  And the next day the EEG guy called me to schedule an appointment.

Sigh.  I knew since he was 8 that W did in fact have dyslexia.  There's a big emotional difference though, between a mom-diagnosis and an actual neurophysiologist diagnosis.  I guess I still just held onto the idea that W's reading/spelling/writing issues would just go away one day.  When I do get the full report, it is going to be very bittersweet.  I mean, I'll be so glad and relieved to finally have it in writing that this is not something I did to him, that there is a name for what he is going through, and that he is entitled to certain accommodations once he's in school.  Also, I'll be able to know specifically what the issues are and research the best way to teach him.  But on the other hand, I feel like omg, my son has a learning disability and there's nothing anyone can do to cure it. 

Friday, July 06, 2012

Summer 2012!

I find myself in the throes of prepping my son for public school.  He may begin as early as 8th grade.  He may decide 9th grade is better.  He may dismiss the whole idea of school altogether.  Regardless, we are still prepping.  Mentally and emotionally, I'm sure he'll be fine.  He has no problem making friends, getting along with people, taking instruction, or being compliant.  He even knows how to stand in line and raise his hand (lol).  But academically, I realize without a doubt, I need to bring things up another few notches.  This is mainly to transition smoothly into a public school workload and to ensure that what he knows and what he will be learning over the next couple of years will stick.

It's very hard to feel like I'm fully letting go of unschooling.  I can combat that thought with - well W is choosing to go to school, so as his parent/facilitator I do what I can to help him reach his goal and pursue that interest - Just like I've been facilitating his interests all along.  As academic as we have been, it's all been through W's request.  We continue with what he likes and discard what's not interesting.  I guess we'll still be doing that in a way, but it will be wrapped around a parent-led workload.  He wants to try school.  This comes with his understanding that I am the one who knows how to not only get him there, but ensure he will be fine once he's in.  He will thank me later.

In 4 days we are driving to the Bronx and W will be evaluated for his learning disability.  Finally knowing specifically what is going on will be such a relief.  Then I can readjust accordingly if I have to.  Tuesday can't come soon enough.

J has spent the last 2 weeks way out in Long Island with one of her best friends.  She's been at the beach and pool every day, tie-dying shirts, going to fairs and parades, and hanging out with a ton of other kids.  She came back last Sunday for her theater jazz/tap workshop but went right back out that night.  It's better than camp, lol.  She'll be at the workshop again this Sunday and then home.  She would probably go right back out to the island if it weren't for her Tue-Thu dance classes starting next week.  I love that she'll be doing Pilates.  It's supposed to be great for dancers.  B went out and bought leg bands and an exercise mat yesterday for her.  She has 2 books to read for school (The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien and Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood by Oliver Sacks) both of which I picked up yesterday.  She is also taking an SAT prep class over the summer with her friends and I bought the book for that as well.  She is all ready for her junior year at LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts!

Speaking of camp, W decided against day camp this summer.  They lowered the age range and he doesn't like being one of the oldest kids in the group.  So, we'll be out doing something (almost) every day instead.  Summer in NYC is chock-full of events and activities.  I just wish the thermometer would drop below 90 one of these days.  And since W won't be at camp, we have started to ease into the new curriculum.  3 days a week.  We already started the Saxon 76.  The basic addition review is fantastic and the practice problems in the test book are just what he needs.  He learns best by repetition and what I guess would be considered busywork - but I recently realized that repetition is why I never forgot any math facts.  I am also teaching him how to write proper story summaries.  I read The Emperor's New Clothes to him the other day and asked him to narrate back.  He pretty much told me back the whole story, almost verbatim.  (Ok, so I'm positive this kid has no retention and comprehension issues).  So the exercise was to retell the story back in only 4 sentences.  As I held up one finger at a time, he came up with the 4 sentences in perfect order and form.  Now the trick is to get him to do that with pen in hand.  He gets so tripped up on sentences and spelling and punctuation, that he completely loses what was in his head.  I think if I tape-record his summaries and have him write it down while it's being played back, he will learn to write better, faster, and with less frustration.  Well, that's the plan, anyway.  We'll see if it works.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Looking Ahead

J's dance recital was cancelled because of a blackout caused by a big thunderstorm.  They rescheduled it for September (?!).  She's excited school is over and is looking forward to being a junior!  She told me she is considering going into the science field, working with either dancers, athletes, and/or kids.  I've already bookmarked a few colleges to look at, lol.  She also plans to keep dancing.

J went to the Broadway Dance Center with a friend this week and took a contemporary jazz class.  She used one of her free passes and plans on going there a lot this summer.  Her theater jazz summer workshop starts on Sunday.

W's show choir performance was awesome and he can't wait to start the next session in the fall.

Here's the final outline of what we'll probably be using and doing for 6th Grade.  This is the general plan but I predict there will be lots of tweakage. I have almost everything now and I'm really looking forward to September.

W 6th Grade

Spelling, Grammar, Vocabulary
Spelling Skills 5 & 6 (Harcourt)
Simply Grammar (Andreola)
Wordly Wise Gr. 6 (Hodkinson & Adams)
Studied dictation exercises
Creative writing 
Saxon 7/6 (TT7 & LoF are on hand)
History & Biography
Various books & workbooks on US & World History
Oral & written narrations
Field trips
States & Capitals
Countries & Capitals
Continents & Oceans
Science/Natural History
Nature Study: The Handbook of Nature Study (Comstock)
Outdoor Hour Challenge blog
Various books & workbooks
Oral & written narrations
Field trips
The Chronicles of Narnia series (Lewis)
   -The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
   -Prince Caspian
   -The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
   -The Silver Chair
   -The Horse & His Boy
   -The Magician's Nephew
   -The Last Battle
Some oral & written narrations
Daily Independent reading - books of choice
Getting Started with Spanish (Linney & Orta)
Artistic Pursuits, Junior High Book One: Elements of Art & Composition (Ellis)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Winding Down the Year

Our last field trip with our wonderful homeschool group was back to Highline Park for a class about native plants.  It was a rainy day, but the Highline was still beautiful and the kids had fun.  We walked almost the whole southern length of the park, stopping to sit at all the underpasses for discussions.  We had 7 or 8 kids (ages 9-13) and they all got booklets describing many of the native plants found all along the Highline.  Looking for and learning about new things is way more fun when you're running around in the rain, lol.  After the class a bunch of us found some (dry) tables and chairs and had a nice picnic lunch together.

Sitting under an archway for a lesson

W went home with one of his best homeschool friends for a sleepover and then headed back to the city with them to hang out at another friend's house.  So what do three 11 year-old boys do when they have the whole day to themselves?  They make movies!

This week we headed into Manhattan again for an all-day acting and improv class for homeschoolers.  W loved it.  The instructor was great with them.  They did a lot of creative stuff in small groups and presented it to the rest of the class.  W met some new homeschooled kids and had such a great time.

It's been a helluva year with the trips and classes we got to be a part of.  We've been to so many places we'd never been to before and seen familiar ones in a brand new light.  I'm so grateful for all of it.

And speaking of grateful, we just got the amazing opportunity to get W officially evaluated for dyslexia.  I hadn't gotten it done sooner because every place and doctor I've called said a basic eval would be at least $1500 and a full one at least $3000.  So, I have just been teaching him as if he does have dyslexia.  Whatever I'm doing seems to be working pretty well, but to know exactly what he has would mean I can tailor things more to his specific issues.  Anyway, we signed up for a full evaluation at the Albert Einstein Medical Center here in NYC.  He will have a complete battery of tests (including an IQ test) done at their cognitive Neurophysiology lab.  We get a full report with clinical feedback and recommendations signed by a psychologist.  If he does have dyslexia, he gets to participate in their brain imaging study (over 3 more visits).  I'm super excited to finally get a diagnostic report and he's looking forward to it because they'll be paying him about $50 a day for his participation.  I pay nothing.

Here's a picture of some of the books we're using for 6th grade in September.  I still have to order Saxon Math and I think I want to try Artistic Pursuits with him.  Day camp starts on Monday already (!) so our academics are officially over.  I have a 6th grade bridge workbook for him to do and I really would like him to do some reading every day, but I'll take anything I can get.  In a month or so, Target and Staples will be having  their big back-to-school sales and I will not miss it this year.  We need so many supplies.

Some of the books for 6th grade

W took the 5th grade CAT-E test on Monday.  Now we're just waiting for the results and I'll mail all our paperwork before the 30th.  I already have the 4th quarterly, annual assessment, and letter of intent all printed up and ready to go.  I even have his 6th grade IHIP completed, but I'll wait til August to send that.

W's show choir recital/concert is Saturday night.  He's doing 2 shows.  The first one starts at 5:30pm and the second one at about 7:15pm.  There will also be kids playing instruments and vocal soloists who take private lessons there.  I think an art presentation as well.  He's so excited to sing in a show!

Friday night is J's big dance recital.  She is in 8 group numbers, the musical theater demo, the closing number, and leading her new baby classes in 2 numbers each (one she has to be on stage with them, the other 3 from the orchestra pit).  As usual, it will be hectic and crazy, but it's what J lives for.  I love it, too, but I'm looking forward to the after party!

J's summer will be all dance once again.  She is doing a 9-week theater jazz & tap workshop and 3 days a week at her studio for contemporary, lyrical, pilates, turns & technique... and more theater jazz & tap.  She'll certainly be keeping busy, but she will get to sleep late and even it all out with lots of beach and pool parties.

Here's to a fabulous summer!