Saturday, May 26, 2012

Highline Park & The Museum of Tolerance

Our homeschool group trip on Wednesday was to Highline Park right in NYC's meatpacking district.  It's an old elevated railway that was turned into a beautiful park.  Cargo trains used to bring produce and meat into the big refrigerator buildings.  The National Biscuit Company (Nabisco) is right there as well.  The class was all about the Highline's railway history. It was our first time to Highline Park.  Lucky for us it was also Fleet Week and we got to see dozens of these incredible boats and ships going by.  When the class was over, a few of us went to the Chelsea Market for some lunch.  The Market is real artsy and cool, and it's a total foodie's paradise.

W's class on the Highline

Schooner on the Hudson

On Thursday, we met up with our homeschool group again for a class and tour of the Museum of Tolerance.    We saw films, exhibits, and had great discussions on things like war propaganda, genocide (Holocaust, Rwanda, Sudan, Darfur, Bosnia, etc), communism, Nazis, immigrants, civil rights, gay rights, women's rights, bullying, and terrorism.  The films were shown on clusters of screens built right into the walls of the exhibit.  Our instructor was wonderful.  The kids (and adults!) were fully engaged and asked and answered tons of questions. I can't believe how powerful it was to have everything that's going on in the world shown to you all within 90 minutes.  It makes you want to stand up and scream and do something about it.  Lots to talk about when we got home.

Museum of Tolerance

W has started blogging about his field trips.  I figure since we go on so many it would be a good idea to have him write about them.  I've been noticing more and more issues related to his dyslexia.  This has prompted me to increase the amount of time spent on reading, writing, spelling, and grammar.  So, the blog entries are about a paragraph's worth (maybe 5-6 sentences) on where he went, what he remembers, and what he thought about it.   He has also gotten back into doing copywork.  He rewrites 3 sentences related to History, Social Studies, Geography, or Science.  (I create these pages for him taken from books and websites) and we save them in a binder.  Readalouds with narrations have also made a comeback.  Right now we're reading Johnny Tremaine.  2 pages of his spelling workbook and 20 minutes of silent reading are also done daily.  Math is done daily and is focusing on everything prealgebra.  Over the next few years we will keep revisiting multiplication, division, fractions, decimals, percents, exponents, rounding, estimating. probability, averages, area, perimeter, circumference, volume, angles, negative numbers, inequalities, order of operations, factoring, square & cubed roots, ratios & proportions, and measurements.  We started using a big 4'x3' blackboard to work out math problems on.  It keeps him more interested and focused and it's a lot more fun.  We're spending a good 1/2 hour a day on math now, but the time just flies by.  I'm happy we have gotten into a nice groove again and I'm really looking forward to September and 6th grade!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Singin' & Dancin'

The weekend was busy.  On Friday night W's show choir performed in a fundraiser gala.  It was really nice.  A live jazz band played, W's choir (a total of 9 kids) sang jazzy standards like "Take the A Train", there was great food, wine, and desserts, and they raffled off some nice gifts.  He was so nervous to perform, but once he's on stage, he's certainly a natural.  Singing seems to be his new thing.  I hope he sticks with it!

Saturday was J's last regional dance competition for this season.  Out of 24 teen solos, J received one of only 2 ELITE (equivalent to platinum) awards given and the 2nd highest score overall.  We definitely had some tough judges this weekend.  Sunday was group day.  J did:

  • 4 production numbers (all 30 members of the company are in these) - tap, character, lyrical, & musical theater
  • 3 small group numbers (5-8 kids in these) - contemporary, hip-hop, & tap
  • 1 trio - musical theater

6 of these received the ELITE award and 2 received High Gold.  The trio, one of the production numbers, and 1 of the small group numbers were the highest scoring numbers of the day!  Now we're getting ready for the big June recital.  J will be performing at a middle school and a street fair in June also.  For the rest of the summer, she will be taking a "theater jazz" and tap summer workshop for 8 weeks in Manhattan (with a final performance at the Alvin Ailey Theater), 3 days a week will be at her studio for their summer intensive, and scattered throughout the summer will be classes at Broadway Dance Center, also in Manhattan.  She won 5 free classes and plans on using them up.

K is officially done with her freshman year of college.  She just took her last final exam (her final final?) yesterday.  She has a new job (no more health food place) at one of my favorite stores and just finished her training last week.  She loves it.  Summer can't get here soon enough for her.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

East River Ecology

Lots of science going on!  We joined our homeschool group for a couple of great trips exploring the East River.  The first one was on Friday for park ecology at Solar One in Stuyvesant Cove Park.  (Solar One is the City’s first solar-powered “Green Energy, Arts, and Education Center,” inspiring New Yorkers to become environmentally responsible city dwellers).  Our class was a Water Quality Lab where the instructor pulled up water out of the East River and our 5th-8th graders looked at and discussed its physical and chemical properties.  They looked for microorganisms and plankton using test tubes and magnifying glasses and they tested the salt concentration. Then the kids went on a scavenger hunt all around the park looking for various plants and birds.

Retrieving river water with some of the kids
What's in the water?
Scavenger Hunt

Yesterday we headed over to Brooklyn Bridge Park for "Seining the River Wild"!  This class took place on a cute, tucked away little beach right underneath the Manhattan Bridge.  To the right was the Williamsburg Bridge and to the left was the beautiful Brooklyn Bridge. The instructors, a few parents, and some of our 16-y/o homeschoolers put on waders, walked out into the water and dragged a 20-foot seine net through the water to catch various East River species.  These were put into clear gallon containers and identified and described by the staff biologists.  W and a few friends also did some identifying using a NY river species guide book.    They analyzed markings, fin and tail shape, eye placement, appendages, and size to figure out what they were looking at.  In about 8 trips into the water, we found:  
  • Spotted Hake 
  • Tomcod
  • Bay Anchovy
  • Pipefish
  • European Green Crab
  • Asian Shore Crab
  • Sea Squirts
  • Shore Shrimp
  • Seven-spined Bay Shrimp
  • Ribbed Mussels
  • Oysters
  • Sea Lettuce
  • Rockweed
Pretty cool, huh?  Everything was then released back into the water.  As we watched them come in with the seines, I'm sure I'm not the only parent who prayed no dismembered heads or feet were pulled in, lol.  After the class, a bunch of us headed over to the park playground for a couple of hours.  It was a beautiful day.

The Beach
Homeschoolers under the Manhattan Bridge
A few river creatures we found

In academic news...
We have been keeping to the same academic schedule for a while:  2 pages of Spelling Skills Grade 5 (Spelling, Grammar, & Vocabulary), 1-2 pages of Flash Kids Test Prep Math Grade 5 for a nice review (drill?) of concepts, and either History (readings about Colonial Times), Science (anything of interest mainly), or 1 Lesson of DK Language Learner: Spanish.  We usually do 1or 2 field trips each week as well.  W is doing great with this loose schedule and it hasn't really changed in months.  I am slowly trying to increase his writing assignments, though, starting with chapter summaries.  We're currently working on condensing and fine-tuning the thoughts in his head so they come out smoothly on paper.  We're also going to try other writing activities like poems, songs, pen pal letters, letters to celebrities, scripts, etc.  Our main focus will be on mastering the "3 Rs".  Day camp starts in a little over a month and that puts an end to most of the academics for the summer.  I can't believe this school year is almost over.  Life just goes by so fast lately.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Center for Architecture and More Dance News

We started this week with a trip to the Center for Architecture in NoHo (North of Houston St.) right by Washington Square Park.  It's a cool little museum that's all about the built environment.  We had a class of 5 10-12y/o homeschoolers (it rained so we were missing a few families) who were pretty interested in learning about the architecture in the Middle East.  Once again, they were very engaged and asked and answered a lot of questions.

Center for Architecture

This week was Parent Observation Week again at J's high school.  I stayed and watched her 4 periods (3 hours) of ballet and modern dance classes.  I was so impressed with their focus, determination, and talent.  This school never ceases to blow me away.   J has 4 dance instructors this semester, each one hailing from some prestigious dance company and/or Broadway.  2 graduating seniors made it into Juilliard, and others went right into dance companies, and national tours of shows.  They mean business here and they certainly produce results.  Love this school.  Below is a quick video of J going "across the floor" with a friend.  Every dance class has its own live piano player.

Modern dance class
                                                                    Ballet Class

J and her dance studio spent this weekend at a NUVO dance convention in New Jersey.  She had 3 days (a total of 14 hours) of master classes by choreographers like Stacey Tookey and Denise Wall, among others.  There had to be at least 300 kids in the teen/senior room .  On Sunday afternoon they announced that J won a "Standout in Jazz" scholarship ($250) to one of several week-long summer intensives!!  I'm not sure if it's feasible to do, but how cool that she won!