Saturday, April 28, 2012

Apple Store and Hayden Planetarium

I just loooove the Apple Store on the Upper West Side.  W had another class there last week and once again it was great.  It was called Making Music in a Garage Band.  The kids got some new yellow t-shirts, an iPad and headphones to use, and were shown how to create music.  They could use any instrument and piece it all together to make a song.  It was a fabulous 90-minute class made up of about a dozen 10-15 year-olds.  Afterwards, a bunch of us walked over to this wonderful little farmer's market right near Juilliard and Lincoln Center.  There were lots of food stands and tables & chairs.  W and I both got a prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, arugula, tomato panini and some fresh apple cider.  Mmmm.  What a lunch!

iPad fun at the Apple Store

Yesterday, we met up with some homeschooling friends at the Hayden Planetarium.  This is in the Rose Space Center at the Museum of Natural History.  Our first stop was to a special exhibition called:  Creatures of Light - Nature's Bioluminescence, and the next special exhibition we visited was called Beyond Planet Earth: The Future of Space Exploration,  These are fantastic. You follow a set route filled with interactive displays, short films, and larger than life models. A helpful guide went more in depth with what you were looking at. Each exhibit took about 45-minutes to explore.  Finally, we got our tickets to see the planetarium show:  Journey to the Stars.  I have always loved the planetarium since I was a child, and it's still amazing.  Click on all the links to  see what the place and the exhibits are like.  I highly recommend coming for a visit and checking these out.

Beyond Planet Earth - MARS
English: Compound words, dictionary pronunciations, antonyms, proofreading, capitalization.  Math:  Data analysis and probability, mini-test 100% (word problems, pictographs, finding the mean, probability, bar graphs).  Spanish:  Conversational lesson & audio: What's Your Name & review of prior lesson.  Science:  Weather:  atmosphere (troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

WOW!! Totally Shameless Brag

J's Musical Theater Trio (J is in blue)

We were at another dance competition this weekend in Long Island.  J did 8 numbers on Saturday:  4 small groups (hip-hop, contemporary, tap, musical theater), 2 large productions (musical theater, contemporary), a trio (musical theater), & a solo (lyrical).  Everything got the highest awards - high gold and platinum.  But, I was so incredibly proud when J got a platinum for her solo.  This is a solo she choreographed from start to finish all by herself.  She chose the costume, the hairstyle, the song, she cut the music, and put it all together in less than a month.  She finished it a few days before the February competition.  At that point she hadn't done any cleanups, had enough practice, and didn't even dance with the costume on before the comp - but still made the top 5 with a high gold.  But this weekend she was ready.  It was told to us over and over that this would be one of the most difficult comps we had ever done, with really tough judges.  I think a couple dozen Teen Advanced solos performed, and to me, they were all so good.  They called a top 10 of only platinum award winners.  After they called the first 5, I figured J didn't place, but then they called her name.  She made top 5 at THIS competition!!

Then, they called her up to tell her she won a spot to perform in the opening number of their Nationals!  We aren't going, but it's great to be chosen.  Then they were giving out a scholarship to Broadway Dance Center in Manhattan.  I wanted her to win this so badly.  She's been there several times - taking classes with Tyce Diorio and Ellenore Scott.  They called about 7 kids' names and then last of all was J.  Omg!  I was dying.  Classes there are at least $25 each and she won 5 free classes!!

The next day the team had one more number - a tap production (which just means more than 17 kids).  They  received a platinum award for that and came in 2nd for overall production number.  I figured we were done for the day and then got the shock of my life.  They announced they were now about to give out an overall 13-and-over top Student Choreography award.  They went on about how many company students are choreographing their own dances and they want to recognize that.  And here there was only 1 winner.  When they called J's name and dance number I flipped out.  B and I were in tears that J was recognized and awarded for her choreography.  It is extremely hard for any choreographer to create a platinum-winning solo and I can't believe J did that at 15 years old.

She has already been approached by one of the 12-year-old company members to choreograph her solo for next year's season.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Guggenheim Museum

A piece by Kandinski
We met up with the homeschool group again this week for a trip to the Guggenheim Museum.  Here's another museum I've always meant to get to, but never did.  We had about a dozen kids, all  about 10-12 y/o.  Our tour guide was friendly and fun and first sat with the kids right on the floor of the main lobby to talk about the structure of the building.  It's a strangely shaped place created by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1943. They talked about aesthetics, sounds, history, and architecture.  Our first stop on the tour was to a gallery of artwork by Vasily Kandinski, who created these geometric collages stemming from his synesthesia (music and letters are perceived with colors).  They had discussions about the artwork and we found out that the whole museum was created to house Kandinski's art.  We walked to the top of the spiraled building and passed by many pieces from John Chamberlain.  His art was mainly from crushed and battered cars.  He used all parts of the car except the glass and the tires.

Talking about Chamberlain's sculpture

A sculpture on the main floor
The final part of the class was in the computer lab in the museum's lower level.  We had a new instructor who showed the kids how to use a program called Sketch-Up.  It's a cool 3D design program from Google.  The kids all had their own computers to work with and started with a basic x- and y-axis.  They created rectangles and triangles and then 3-dimensional shapes.  It was fun and W will probably download the program at home.

Using Sketch-Up
The remainder of the afternoon was spent in Central Park.  We got some quick cart food and headed over to the pyramid playground by the Met Museum.  The park was packed with kids and W had a blast forming a huge game of manhunt with the homeschool kids and about 8-10 other boys from the park.  It was so beautiful out and we could have stayed there all day.  

W's interest in singing has recently resurfaced.  He remembered how much he enjoyed being in that kids musical a few summers ago and seems to want to pursue that further.  So, I found him a youth show choir that meets on Saturday afternoons and he started today.  This 12-week session's theme is jazz and so far they're working on singing and dancing to "Take the A-Train" and "It Don't Mean a Thing".  He absolutely loved it and cannot wait to get back there next week.  

Academics this week:

English: Spelling (20 new words, definitions and classification), Sentence construction, Mini-Test (vocabulary, pronouns, punctuation, sentence construction, using interrogative & exclamatory sentences), Collecting data from various references to write an essay, bibliographies, using a dictionary (guide words, pronunciation guide, syllables)
Math: Area of right triangles, squares, & rectangles, Mini-test (graphing coordinates, area, 3D shapes, metric measurement, congruence), gathering & communicating data (charts & bar graphs), finding the mean
History: American Revolution: Loyalists & Patriots

Monday, April 09, 2012

One Direction, SNL, & Rudy's

J and her friend (S) had exclusive passes to go see the dress rehearsal of Saturday Night Live this past week.  The guest host was Sofia Vergara and the musical guest was none other than my daughter's newest boy band crush - One Direction.  S's mom and I brought the girls in by subway around 6pm.  It was getting crowded inside the NBC Studio building.  Packs of teenage girls were everywhere.  S's cousin (who works for the show) came down to escort them right up.  It was great to see them walk right past the crowd and into the elevator.  They had 2nd row floor seats.  They got to see the whole show and One Direction was right in front of them performing their 2 numbers.  I'd say about 10 feet away.  J & S called a few things out and got their attention and the boys smiled and waved at them.  Needless to say, both of them were crying and dying.

S's mom and I walked around looking for a quiet place to sit and have a beer while we waited for the girls.  That's not easy in the Times Square area.  Finally we found the perfect divy-looking "old-man-bar".  It turned out to be the best place ever.  Looks were certainly deceiving.  $3 bottles of beer, free hotdogs, great music, mixed crowd, and a fantastic bartender.  I found out later that this place has been here since it was a speakeasy in the 30s.  It's called Rudy's Bar & Grill and it's on 9th Avenue right in Hell's Kitchen.  The history of the place is not to be believed.

We walked back over to pick up the girls around 10pm.  We passed right through the middle of Times Square.  I forgot how breathtakingly beautiful it is at night.  I fit right in with all the tourists as I whipped out my camera and started taking pictures of it.  The girls were waiting outside for us and couldn't wait to flash us their show passes.  It seemed to draw some attention.  Half a dozen girls ran over to them asking how it was and if they got to see the band and how lucky they were.  Then out came Leslie Mann (from The Change-Up) who took some pics with fans and jumped right into her awaiting Escalade.  We finished the night off with a vanilla ice-cream cone with chocolate crunchies on it from the Mr. Softee truck right there on 50th street by Rockefeller Plaza.  The subway home took 15 minutes and B was right right there to pick us up.  What a great night!

J and her friend on the way to NBC Studios to see One Direction at the dress rehearsal of SNL

J's access into SNL 

S's mom and I were in the Times Square/Hell's Kitchen area while we waited for the girls.  

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

NBC Studios & Apple Store

Another great trip yesterday with the homeschool group.  This time it was to the Apple Store on the Upper West Side for a class on Digital Photography.  We had almost a dozen kids - all 5th grade & up.  Each child got a yellow Apple t-shirt and their own iPad to use.  The instructor was young, cool, and funny and really kept the kids interested in what was going on.  The kids took a bunch of pictures of themselves using all the crazy filters.  Then they opened up iMovie to piece a bunch of them together along with music, sound effects, and their own voices.  The class was 90 minutes long and afterwards the kids hung around the Apple store for another 1/2 hour playing on iPads.  W and I went with a couple of others to Ollie's Noodle House for a nice lunch.  I love the Upper West Side.  Lincoln Center is right there and of course LaGuardia High for the Performing Arts, too!

Making a movie out of pictures
Another awesome field trip was the NBC Studios tour last week.  I didn't go, but W did.  They visited the studio sets of a few TV shows and did a mock newscast on the Today Show set - W was the weatherman.  I had done this trip years ago as a teenager.  I remember seeing some celebrities, like Soupy Sales, Victor Borge, and Connie Chung walking around the hallways.  We only had like 6 channels of TV in the 70s so I knew more about who was on the major networks.  W hardly watches NBC at all - or much TV at all, really.  I'm not sure W would recognize anyone.  He had a good time, though.  We had gone to the West Village pool hall the day before and W went home with a friend for a sleepover - they brought him to the NBC Studio tour the next day.

I was once again overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude yesterday thinking about how lucky we are to get to homeschool.  I literally get teary-eyed thinking about how W has such a wonderful balance of academics, friends, trips and classes, and most importantly - plenty of time to follow his interests and enjoy childhood.  The older he gets, the more there is out there for him.   I'm glad J got to have that experience as well - and as brief as K's homeschooling journey was, she definitely got a lot out of it.  

Recent Academics include:
English/Lang. Arts: Types of sentences (declarative, interrogative, exclamatory, imperative), run-on sentences, fragmented sentences, outlining a research paper, dissecting paragraphs, homonyms, correct usage of verbs, pronouns, & superlatives, 
Math: Pyramids & prisms, graphing coordinates (x & y axis), similar and congruent shapes, equivalent fractions, metric conversions (milli-, deca- hept- kilo-), approximate measurements, estimating area of irregular shapes
History: The 13 colonies, life in colonial times, The start of the American Revolution