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