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.