Saturday, December 28, 2013

December 2013

Ahhh, December.  As I say every year, there is nothing better than Christmas in NYC.  W and I did our usual round of Rockefeller Plaza Christmas tree and FAO Schwarz.  We saw a few store windows, too, but he wasn't so into that this year.  All 5 of us and my mom met up in Manhattan one night, had a nice dinner at a small cafe/diner, and walked over (through the Lincoln Center grounds, which were beautifully decked out for Christmastime) to LaGuardia High School's production of Grease.  As usual, the school show was out of this world.  So many of J's friends were in it and even B and I knew a lot of the kids.  The entire 8-show run in the 1150-seat concert hall was completely sold out.  J didn't audition for this show.  I kinda wish she did, not only for the cool experience it would have been, but also because a particular famous parent whose child was in the show, took a bunch of the cast out for a big celebration.  Sigh.  J really couldn't care less about things like that - but I would have loved to hear all about it, lol.

B and I once again got to see J in all 3 hours of her afternoon dance classes at school for "Parent Observation Day".  That day she had 90 minutes of classical ballet and 90 minutes of Horton modern.  The kids did their usual combinations and at the end they practiced for the big Senior Dance Showcase which they'll be performing in at the end of January.  All the dancers are truly amazing.

J stretching at school

This month, J also:

  • has been in rehearsals for the big Rising Stars school talent show which is the first or second weekend in February
  • was personally asked to be a dancer on a (somewhat famous) hip hop choreographer's video demo reel
  • took a theater jazz class with Lane Napper.  She was his guest that day (they have mutual friends) and he even singled J out to demonstrate a certain combination for the class
  • has been busy working on all new choreography for the upcoming dance competition season.  She is doing 2 solos and 3 group numbers this year.  

W is doing great with academics.  I think we have finally found the perfect weekly schedule (until it's not perfect anymore, lol).  But really, he even mentioned to me how good it was.  I know we are constantly changing our order and frequency of things, but the content pretty much remains the same.  PreAlgebra and Tom Sawyer are moving along very nicely.  Science (chemical & physical changes) and History (Ancient Egypt) are also sinking in well.  We have stayed on track and he's taking it all pretty seriously.  It could be because he's almost 13 and more mature now, but also because he has expressed interest in trying public high school.  He said he wants to see what all the hype is about.  We have already looked at a few options for him and are most happy with a small, local school that has excellent ratings and reviews.  After we did the research, a friend of his came back to CCD class (after 2 years) and it turns out that she goes to that school (it's a secondary school that include middle grades).  B and her mom spoke at length and she has nothing but good things to say about it (her 10th grader goes there, too).  So, I'll take that as a sign that we're choosing correctly.  Whether or not he changes his mind is fine with me.  But for now, he is happily getting his work done.

W has recently decided that he's just that not into scouting anymore.  He really wanted to be and gave it a good shot, but he won't be going back.  He'd rather keep his main focus on his MMA training.  This month he tested for his first stripe.  In this gym, after 4 stripes he can test for a blue "belt" (which is actually black and blue shorts - he wears black and white ones now).  In Muay Thai, there technically isn't a color ranking system like they have in other martial arts.  The stripes and colors are most likely so the gym can keep track of who's where.  But still, it was so exciting to watch.  Everything he did looked so difficult and with him being the youngest in the group, I was so nervous for him.  At the end he did get his stripe - and the recognition of having the best technique out of everyone.  What a proud moment for W!

W (w/mouth guard in) after getting his MMA stripe

Saturday, November 30, 2013

November 2013

W is doing so well with the Muay Thai kickboxing classes, that he was told he can test for his "stripe".  It's a different system than he had with karate - there really aren't "belts" and they don't wear a gi.  W wears a uniform t-shirt and shorts (that eventually change colors), but I'm not sure how it all works yet.  Even though it's a martial art, it's more like regular boxing.  He's in the adult class and is not only keeping up with everyone, he's helping some of his classmates with form and technique.

We're more than half way through Tom Sawyer and W is reading a few Shel Silverstein poems out loud every day as well.  He recently became a little self-conscious again about reading out loud (I think because he started CCD classes which are a little too much like school for his taste), but he does so well with the poetry.  That was a good call, lol.  He really likes the poems and looks forward to reading them.  Speaking of reading, I'm happy to report that W has recently started reading a LOT on his own time.  He has finally realized that reading for information is actually pretty cool.  He is researching different things online and talks about them with me and B (and has some pretty good discussions with his friends, as I can slightly hear from the other room).  Right now he is enjoying learning about various theories regarding movies and cartoons (like how all the Pixar movies seem to tie together and how the Pokemon world is really all in Ash's mind), researching which editing software to get, and continuing his quest of building a computer.  He's not letting the dyslexia and processing issues slow him down.  He's really determined to overcome it.

W is also enjoying the new math book (Saxon Algebra 1/2) now that we are past what he already knows.   He was getting tired of all the review in the first thirty-something chapters and was practically begging to learn some new stuff.  I get it, but I think review is always a good thing - especially since he has to take a standardized test in the spring.  We finished the month on chapter 50.  From here on in, we will be taking a little more time with each math lesson.  History and geography are going well.  We've moved out of Sumer and Mesopotamia and into Egypt.  This history book is great because each section we cover is potentially another Met Museum trip to see a lot of artifacts from that time and place.  As a matter of fact, we may go next month.  The new science book is as good as I though it would be.  I'm so glad we switched.  It's more fun and interesting to read and W doesn't have that glazed over look with science anymore.

W's schedule currently looks like this:
Math, literature, poetry, & cursive are 3x/week
History, geography, and science are 2x/week
Technology* is 7x/week
Health, practical arts, current events, art, and music are about 2-3x/week
Scouts and CCD are 1x/week
Muay Thai boxing is 3-4x/week
(*technology refers to all computer skills, building a computer, making & editing YouTube tutorials, maintaining and running gaming servers, creating original texture packs for Minecraft, and doing lots of reading and research)

We have cut way back on the homeschool group classes, choosing instead to do independent field trips ourselves or with a few friends once or twice a month.  J hit the same point at this age.  W has been homeschooling since Kindergarten and has done practically every kind of class and trip there is to do.  He doesn't like ongoing classes nor any that involve writing or oral presentations.  So, we have become very picky when it comes to classes.  He's getting older and more independent.  He knows what he wants his teen years to look like and I have to say, he's on a nice track.

J has been busy as well.  Here are some things she has done this month - She:
  • Had more headshots taken - her school took these
  • Made it into her school talent show (!!)
  • Has been in rehearsals for:  the Senior Dance Showcase  the Rising Stars talent show, solos and group numbers for competition season, and the entertainment company for paid dance gigs.
  • After more thought, narrowed her college list down to 1, lol.  Her heart is set on one school only and she has no interest in going anywhere else.
  • Was already accepted into to SUNY College at Brockport (but doesn't plan on going here)
  • Had her 2nd paid performance gig
  • Went to 2 more Sweet 16s (still not done with these, I guess, lol)
  • Ordered her senior ring
  • Had Senior Pajama Day at school
  • Danced in a competition where an episode of Dance Moms was being filmed.  She got to see all the stars of the show, watched the kids compete and win their awards.  Then she got a Platinum award for her new solo (that she just finished only 2 weeks prior).  Platinum in this comp means she scored between a 294 and a 297 (out of 300!).
And my oldest baby girl, K, had her 20th birthday this month.  We got her 2 tickets to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.  We ended up going together - J was supposed to go, but had dance showcase rehearsal at school.  It was a fabulous show!  Kait and I went together more than 15 years ago and it was so great to go again.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Body Worlds

The Body Worlds exhibit in Times Square was pretty interesting.  W wasn't thrilled with it, saying it was just a bit too graphic and disturbing.  I don't know how I feel about it.  I definitely learned a lot.  It is science as well as art as well as a moral lesson of sorts.  We saw damaged lungs, stages of pregnancy, and cross-sections of all organs.  Bodies are skinned and plasticined and arranged in various and creative positions that display their insides.  It felt somewhat voyeuristic and wrong.  I had been looking forward to this for a long time, but I'm kind of left with a weird feeling now that we went.  Any thoughts?  Here's a pic from the inside (pun intended):

W and one of the Body World exhibits

We finished the afternoon with a walk around Times Square and a visit to the big Toys R Us.  It's a ritual for us to venture inside every time we go to Times Square.  Afterwards, we walked around looking for a place to sit and have lunch, but then we decided that the halal chicken and rice from the food cart near our home was exactly what we both wanted.

Totally normal sight in Times Square

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

October 2013

Autumn in Queens
7th Grade is shaping up nicely.  We have a nice rhythm going and W even complimented me on it this week, lol.  I'm happy to announce we have completed Saxon Math 7/6 and have begun Saxon Algebra 1/2.  I'm glad we took our time with 7/6.  I feel it made a difference.  We are also scrapping Apologia science.  I tried, I really did.  I enjoy the reading and the experiments, but W is fading fast.  He's not liking science anymore and that's not cool.  Also, the YE aspect that I vowed to overlook has started to become blatantly obvious and I can't function that way.  Science is supposed to be fun and interesting, and it's not.  We are switching to Holt Physical Science.  It's a big text and we'll use it for 7th and 8th grades.  It comes with a student text and both a parent guide and chapter resources CD Rom.  Since W doesn't like online academics, I'm not going to bother with the "interactive online edition" which is an extra $50.  We'll use the CD Roms, though.  If we like this program, Holt has Biology, Chemistry, and Physics for high school as well.  They come with labs, worksheets, videos, CD Rom companion, etc., so everything we need is there.  Well, that's the beauty of homeschooling - we can change what we don't like.

Ready to gut this thing
Lately, W has been teaching himself more and more things on his computer and about computers in general.  He created a new and better Minecraft server and more than half a dozen other kids are on it with him.  Being the owner and moderator has put him in a leadership position and he takes it seriously.  When he explains to me what he does and how he does it, it's like he's speaking another language.  I love that he's so passionate about it.  W is also attempting to build his own gaming computer.  He's been researching, making lists, and amassing various parts here and there.  I think it's an awesome project to undertake.  He knows it will probably take a long time but he's determined to get it done.  His other new passion is the mixed martial arts he's been going to classes for.  He goes 4 days a week now.  In just over a month, his agility and strength have grown incredibly.  He uses a wall calendar to write down and keep track of his classes and also to schedule in more cardio (skateboarding, jogging, and jumping rope).  His determination, creativity, and independence have skyrocketed just in the last few months.

I remember J being the same way at this age.  In many families twelve is a very hard age to be and to deal with.  As homeschoolers, I find it to be an exciting age where I get small glimpses of who they will be as an adult.  12 is when J's passion for dance started to soar and it's when she got the idea to attend a performing arts high school.  12 seems to be when my kids start really exhibiting the confidence, maturity, and drive to follow their dreams and become something awesome.

Speaking of J, she is having a great senior year so far.  She:
J's Jack-O-Lantern
  • is now working with an agency and is getting paid performance gigs
  • finished choreography on her new competition solo for this season
  • auditioned for her school talent show (her school only allows the best talent in their shows, so we'll see what happens)
  • is taking her SATs next week
  • narrowed her college choices down to 9  
  • already went through one audition (several dance colleges and conservatories come to her school to audition kids)
  • will be assisting in her school's dance auditions again (these are in Nov and Dec)
  • was part of THIS  (that's her in the photo "Fateful Woman").  It was on display at the Studio Museum in Harlem.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Fall and AMNH

Fall puts me is such a good mood.  The weather is finally getting colder, the leaves are turning all sorts of awesome colors, and the new school year is nicely underway for both W and J.

W was part of a homeschool group trip to the American Museum of Natural History.  This one was on how certain skulls have changed through time.  They discussed and studied male and female chimp and gorilla skulls, along with Lucy (Australopithecus), Neanderthal, and Homo Sapiens skulls.  The kids measured, observed, and wrote for almost an hour.  The 3 instructors were great and I think the kids learned a lot.  After the class, we got a tour of the Human Origins area.

A closet of skulls...  Muahahahaha

Worksheet to log in findings

J and I have been extremely busy with college applications.  She and B went to a huge college fair at the Jacob Javitz center in Manhattan.  J enjoyed the chance to speak with students and faculty of where she's interested in going.  She's got her list of schools and now comes all the fun stuff.

I've enjoyed the once a month posting, but I miss being able to post when the mood strikes.  So it's back to being random.  Oh and watch out, I've discovered the Blogger app...

Saturday, September 28, 2013

September 2013

My favorite month!  Actually, at the end of August I stopped in Michael's and got some autumn decorations.  I couldn't wait.  September is the month I can have all the windows open and there's actually a wonderful breeze coming in.  B is looking to start making soup in the crock pot and Halloween is next month!

W was all ready to register for basketball, when he said he might want to try MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) instead.  So, I found a great place with a great reputation.  We went down for a free trial.  The first day was a consultation to see what W's fitness level was like.  He did a circuit of rowing machine, sit-ups, pull-ups, bench pressing, and jumping onto this huge tire.  Bottom line - he's incredibly strong with great form.  They said to try both the kids and the teen/adult MMA classes to see which would be a better fit.  Being 12, W is right on the outskirts of both age groups. The kids class was ok.  There were kids of all ages, including several 12 & 13 y/os.  He did fine.  Then he tried the teen/adult class to see which he prefers.  The older group is much more skilled and focused and I think that's what W needs.  It was a Muay Thai class (a form of kickboxing).  After warming up, they immediately went into sparring and combat.  W seemed to take to it pretty well and would like to continue. The owner of the gym and 2 teachers agreed that he would do better in the older class.  He now goes 3x a week.  We just got him his own hand wraps and boxing gloves.  I'd love to see where this takes him.

A new season of CCD and Boy Scouts began last week.

We started 7th grade this month.  Saxon 7/6 we're almost done with - probably finishing up by the end of October.  Lightning Lit 7 is a hit so far.  W loved Rikki Tikki Tavi and enjoyed the literary discussion about it.  We watched the cartoon on YouTube, too.  Now we're reading Tom Sawyer.  He still does narrations and I ask questions, so I know he gets it.  I do worry about the dyslexia, but so far it hasn't been too much of an issue.  I am noticing it more lately, though.  When he reads, he gets so physically exhausted in such a short amount of time.  I read that children with visual dyslexia and visual processing disorder exert so much more energy getting their brain to translate what they're seeing - no wonder he gets tired.  I am so thankful that we live in the 21st century with things like audio books, digital recorders, spell check, etc.  Even though he reads and writes every day, I'm glad those things exist to help him in the future.

The K12 Human Odyssey for history is just continuing from last year.  We're still learning more about Sumeria. The new geography program is great, too, so far.  It's a fun read.  A lot of the stuff we're learning can be reinforced with a few field trips, too.  And we're moving along nicely with Apologia General Science.  We did a few experiments this month and learned about experimental variables, surface tension, control groups, placebos, and blind and double-blind studies.   Here are pictures from our experiments:

Soap can propel a cardboard boat

Surface tension floats a paper clip

We visited the Sony Wonder Technology Lab a couple of weeks ago.  We haven't been there in a few years so it was all new again - they also had a huge renovation since we'd been there last.  W created cartoon characters, programmed a robot car, performed virtual open heart surgery, and played some cool PlayStation games.


J is now a senior at LaGuardia Arts!  She is taking English, Government, and Math, and 2 double periods (4 classes) per day of dance.  This semester includes: Classical Ballet, Modern (Horton), Modern (Graham), and Career Management.  This is going to be a crazy year filled with performances, applications, auditions, prom, and graduation.

Also this month, J:
  • Went to several hip-hop master classes
  • Stood on line from midnight at Good Morning America in Times Square to see a band called R5.  One member is Ross Lynch (from Disney's Austin & Ally and Teen Beach Movie) who J is in love with.  Only 25 people were picked to watch them perform live in the studio and be on TV.  She, K, and her best friend were all selected.  The got pictures with several band members (including Ross!).  I DVR'd the show and got to see them.  
  • Got her senior pictures.  She looks gorgeous.  I still can't believe she's a senior.
  • Is getting ready for the new dance season.  Lots of great things are in store.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

August 2013

I got some back-to-school supplies from Staples - 6 spiral notebooks and 2 packs of loose-leaf paper all for about $4.50.  I'm not sure what J is going to need for her senior year of school so I usually just wait till we get a list.  W doesn't need much at all.  We use a whiteboard and markers, 1 notebook, and a bunch of pencils.  He doesn't really use glue or crayons anymore.  Sometimes he'll use colored pencils for art or nature study sketching, but we have tons of those along with about 4 blank sketch books.  It's weird, but I'm almost sad that I don't need to do a big shopping, lol.  I miss that.

The rest of W's 7th grade books came:  Lightning Lit 7, Saxon Algebra 1/2, and Runkle's Geography.  He's really excited to start the new math book.  I told him I would like to finish as much of the previous one as we can.  We're almost done - maybe we have another month of it.  I'm in no hurry - he "gets" math easily with full understanding.  I know it has to do with how great Saxon is for him - the way a lesson is explained, the mental math, the practice and review problems, all of it just works beautifully together.  His last Saxon test was almost perfect (as were all of them), so I have no worries.  W also mentioned he'd like to learn Italian and piano.  I've already pulled up a ton of Italian programs for him to choose from.  Not sure what he wants yet.  Piano lessons are abundant around here.  I just have to figure out the nearest and most cost effective place for him to go.  CCD will also continue for 7th grade (Confirmation prep).  All of this is in addition to basketball and scouts.  He's looking forward to having more activities this year.  Since I'm not working anymore, the world has opened up for him.

W's 7th grade books

W's IHIP this year has all the changes that come with going from 6th to 7th grades.  Arithmetic changes to Mathematics and "practical arts" is added.  Everything else is pretty much the same, even if worded a bit differently.  I still use the same format as that in my sidebar.  Hey, if it takes 5 minutes and it works, why change anything.  I will be keeping a better record of his academics for myself as well.  I want to get in the habit of good record-keeping and creating a transcript.  He doesn't need a transcript until high school, but I want to start practicing so I'm ready.  Oh, and for all you NYC'ers don't forget to mail in your Metrocard form.

We got J's proofs for her senior pictures and she looks absolutely gorgeous.  Some shots have her in a cap and gown holding a "diploma".  Seeing her ready to graduate high school is such an emotional time for me.  I still see her as the sad little 8-year-old who was more than ready to homeschool in 3rd grade.  Now she's 17 and will soon be making her mark in the dance world.  She spent a lot of the summer taking dance workshops and master classes.  Some were a week long, some a few days, and some just one day.  She's getting so much training from different choreographers and she's making a lot of connections.  And senior year at LaGuardia High School is going to be amazing.  She has a whole semester on career management and another semester called Repertory where the seniors work with "eminent guest artists". She'll be in several performances throughout the year, as well.

K is doing wonderfully at her job and is ready for a new internship in Manhattan.  She had a great summer - lots of beach, parties, clubs, travel, and she attended a huge event called Electric Zoo (E-Zoo).  It's an Electric Music Festival held annually on Randall's Island.  She's sad that summer is over, but she's ready for autumn.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Wednesday, August 07, 2013


NAME OF CHILD:  ________________
DOB:  __  GRADE LEVEL:  7     SCHOOL YEAR: 2013-2014  NYC STUDENT ID#:  ___
ADDRESS:   ___________________________          DATE MAILED:   August  14, ____                                                            
QUARTERLY REPORTS WILL BE MAILED ON: 11/15/__, 1/30/__, 4/15/__, 6/30/__

(Child's name) will be using various methods/tools for 7th-grade instruction in all the subjects specified in Sect. 100.10 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education. The corresponding subtopics may include and shall not be limited to:

Mathematics * Maintaining skills in fundamental operations* Factoring and products* Sets and simple sentences* Numeration systems* Using fractions and decimals* Ratio, proportion, and percent* Equalities and inequalities* Simple formulas and equations* Graphing an equation* Powers and roots of rational numbers* Polynomials* Metric and nonmetric geometry* Pythagorean Theorem* Scale drawing* Right-triangle trigonometry* Customary and metric measurement* Permutations* Probability statistics* Statistical terms* Mathematics of insurance, banking, and taxes

English  * Improving reading skills* Literary terms* Novels, short stories, plays* Myths, legends, ballads* Types of poetry* Biography and autobiography* Planning and producing dramatizations* Speech activities* Listening skills* Refining dictionary skills* Spelling* Parts of speech* Person, number, gender of nouns and pronouns* Punctuation of conversation* Clauses and phrases* Compound sentences* Writing descriptions, reports, journals, and letters* Note taking and outlining* Extending reference skills: atlases, directories, encyclopedias, periodicals, on-line information services, CD-ROMs, and other electronic reference material* Library organization

History and Geography  * Lands and peoples of the Eastern Hemisphere* Prehistoric peoples* Greek, Roman, and Middle Eastern civilizations* The Middle Ages* Renaissance and Reformation* Scientific Revolution* Age of Reason (Enlightenment)* Industrial Age * Yesterday and today around the world: Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Pacific* World trade and resources* Contemporary problems and issues* Environment* World geography* Advanced map and globe skills

Science  * Atoms &*Molecules *Metric System *Air *Atmosphere *Water *Hydrosphere * Earth & Lithosphere *Weather & Prediction *Physics of Motion *Newton’s Laws *Gravity *Electromagnetic Force *Magnetism *Elements *Radioactivity *Waves & Sound *Light * Intro to Astrophysics

Health  * Good grooming and posture* Dental health* Healthy habits and lifestyles* Exercise and fitness* Effects of stimulants and narcotics* Functions of the body* Circulation and respiration* Germ theory* Sexually transmitted diseases* Family life* Toxins and antitoxins* Antibiotics* Immunization* Chemotherapy* Genetic disorders* Personal and public safety* Accident prevention* Personality development* Substance abuse

Visual Arts/ Phys. Ed/ Practical Arts/ Music/ Etc.  * Computer Programming courses (Java, Python, C++) * (Artistic Pursuits) Elements of Art & Creativity (Ellis) * Consumer Math (banking, budgeting, investing), * Library Skills *  Basketball * Parkour (navigation acrobatics) * Scouting * Vegetable gardening * Film-making * Typing * Public Speaking * Piano Lessons

Instruction methods/tools/resources may include and shall not be limited to:  reference materials (atlas, dictionaries, globe, maps, encyclopedias, non-fiction books, videos, the internet), workbooks, worksheets, hands-on activities, experiments, science lab, projects, newspapers, magazines, frequent field trips, group activities, classic & contemporary literature, research, journal/narrative/essay/poetry writing, games, creative and critical thinking, predicting & forecasting, gathering facts, music CDs, CD ROMs, abundant art supplies, various outside classes (e.g.  technology, science, history, art, & sports), free play, conversations, and real life.

Primary instruction to ____ will be provided by _____ and ______, his parents.  Supplemental instruction will be provided by others, as necessary.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

July 2013

My last day of work was July 11.  I am officially a SAHM again.  I believe it was meant to be.  W is going into 7th grade and more of his recent and upcoming activities take place on evenings and weekends.  And J is going into her senior year at LaGuardia Arts and there are lots more performances, future-planning meetings (college, conservatory, career, etc), and other things for which I need to be around.  I'm ready for and looking forward to this new chapter in my life.

July has been a lot of relaxation.  Long walks, movies, Minecraft.  The apartment got updated - new kitchen floor, new refrigerator, new Bob O Pedic mattress for B and me, new organization routines, and I'm getting used to having evenings back with the family since I'm not working anymore.

We're down to just math and a summer bridge book for the rest of the summer now.  We are saving the History, Science, Lit, and Geog programs for September.  We still use the white board for math and W is doing more pencil work with the bridge book.  I'm bringing cursive back every now and then just to make sure he hasn't forgotten it.  In the fall, we probably will not continue with a separate vocabulary, spelling, and writing program.  Those subjects are incorporated into the other subjects he will be doing.  His reading and writing issues, though very improved, are still there.  Too much intervention and too many programs will just turn him off completely.  I need to take this at the right pace so that he not only improves even more, but maybe will start actually enjoying reading and writing someday.  I realize that being as minimalist as possible and keeping it simple is the way to go.

Over the years I have been trying to figure out a way to explain W's homeschooling in words that leave "home" out of it.  "Homeschooling" just doesn't convey the whole idea.  So from now on I'd like to describe what W does as "supervised independent study with field instruction".  (He chooses his curriculum and schedule, it's overseen and guided by me, and at least a quarter of his education is via outside trips and classes).  So that's what I'm going to say to others from now on when I'm questioned.  :D

Here's what J has done this month:

  • Hip hop workshop classes - Out of 25 teens in the class, she was 1 of 6 chosen to perform choreography to be videoed and submitted for another music video
  • Modern dance class in downtown Manhattan - she was asked to join their group but she has other commitments coming up. 
  • Dance workshop with Victor and Angel from Dance Moms Miami (Lifetime TV)
  • Spent time at the Museum of Natural History, Times Square, and Lincoln Center

Thursday, June 27, 2013

June 2013

W went on a wonderful trip out to the Brookhaven National Lab again.  This one was a 3-hour "Engineering Challenge".  There were about twenty-five 11-15 y/os in the class.  In groups of 3 they had to construct a column made only of cardboard and tape that both lightweight and strong.  The efficiency formula is E = load/weight.  Most kids made some sort of triangle shape, some made rectangles, some hexagons and octagons.  The instructor used an "Instron" device - a kind of crushing machine that measures the strength of something based on the load pushing down on it.  Another challenge was to make a structure (truss) using longerons, batten tubes, and string.

Brookhaven National Lab

A design engineer from a different building came in to the class and spoke to the kids.  While the other kids were working, he spoke to W's group.  He shook the kids' hands while introducing himself and then talked to the kids about engineering - really listening to them, their ideas, input, future plans, etc.  He treated them with respect, he listened to them, and in turn, the kids responded eagerly and maturely.  I would never witness that kind of mutual respect from a public or private middle school.  Why don't schools understand that??  This is a main reason why we homeschool.  My son gets to experience everything in the real world, with real people, learning real skills.  I'll never understand the artificial nothing-like-the-real-world hot mess called middle school (and many high schools, too, btw).

W had his final class at the Tanglewood Nature Preserve.  This one was on Paleontology.  The instructor was great with the kids.  He was like a big kid himself and very into the subject.  He passed around casts of big fossils and deer and horse bones.  As usual, the kids were interested and engaged.  At the end of the class they sectioned off a big dirt area with string and popsicle sticks to make a grid.  1 to 3 kids dug in each section and unearthed various bones.  They measured, sketched, and described what they found.  What a fun class!  I can't wait to do more of these in the fall.

Digging for bones at Tanglewood

Also this month, W went to this cool art class at the CW Post campus of Long Island University.  This was a 2 hour class (middle-high school level) about color, contrast, focal points, and theme.  The kids discussed many pieces of art from a local artist and then drew similar pieces themselves.

CW Post Art Class  (photo credit: CB)

The highlight of the month for me was seeing W in his theater group's original play.  It was a teen drama all about, well, teen drama.  W knew all his lines and he really does have a knack for acting.  He did get stressed out about the show.  For a month he was terrified he'd forget his lines.  He got more comfortable with it around the final week when there were lots of extra rehearsals.  I'm not sure if he wants to continue acting, but I'm so proud that he gave it a try and faced his fear.

Other things W did this month include going to our homeschool group's annual End of No School Picnic, getting an iPhone, and playing lots of soccer in the park.  I'm so looking forward to many many more fun things this summer!

We are also getting ready for our summer academic schedule.  Year-round just works better for us, but the summer months are definitely lighter.  So, we've decided on doing 3 days/week (MWF), 2 subjects a day.  It will look like this:

Mon:  Math, History
Wed:  Math, Science
Fri:   Math, English

And since I won't be working outside the home anymore, we can get out and explore/experience the city (and surrounding areas) some more.  I want to see how we do with the 2 formal subjects a day thing.  I'd like to maybe continue doing that in the fall, 5 days/week.  It doesn't look like much until you see how it's only a part of an entire curriculum, which includes field trips, documentaries, homeschool group classes, basketball, parkour, CCD, scouts, consumer math, personal finance, computer technology (gaming, coding, creating, and online courses), typing, film-making, agriculture (gardening, composting), engineering, public speaking, health, nature study, art/crafts, music, map/ dictionary/ library/ and research skills, etc.  I love homeschooling.

Ok, the final decisions have been made.  The curriculum we are going with for 7th grade is:
Literature:  Lightning Lit 7
Math:  Saxon Algebra 1/2
History:  K12 Human Odyssey 1
Geography:  World Physical Geography (Runkle)
Science:  Apologia General Science

I wanted to bring something else up.  Ever since W got his diagnosis last summer of dyslexia and processing issues from the Albert Einstein School of Medicine neuropsych research dept, I have changed the way we do academics.  It seems that now (in only a year) he can read fluidly with hardly any pauses (and those pauses are only on one or 2 unfamiliar large words), he can write neatly, and I see no problems with his processing speed in any area.  I don't think anyone would even guess he has a learning disability if they saw him today.  The difference between where he was at age 11 to where he is now at age 12 is like night and day.  He is now more than a grade level ahead in reading!  The diagnosis spurred me to change a lot of things.  I pretty much met him where he was, yet pushed him at the same time.  We used various methods and tools but no formal dyslexia programs at all.  At least 90% of his reading/writing/learning issues have disappeared.  Any thoughts?

4th Quarterly, Annual Assessment, and Letter of Intent for 7th grade mailed.

J's junior choreography project was absolutely breathtaking.  One of the teachers explained to the audience that this is the first real school performance for most of them (although some have been in the annual musical or the annual Rising Stars talent show) - it's the first time they really "let them out" to show what they can do.  I can't stress enough how talented these kids are.  There are about 60 junior dance majors and there were 21 different dances in the showcase.  One was better than the next.  Now comes senior year where there are even more opportunities and performances.  I can't believe my baby girl is a senior already.

Here's what else J has been doing this month:

  • She danced at the Alvin Ailey Theater for a pretty well-known choreographer's birthday showcase gala.  She was put front and center of his all-star hip-hop team. I wish I could have gone to see her, but I had work and this only came up the week before.  Luckily, B went.  He said she was beyond fierce, lol.   
  • She was called in for a last-minute rehearsal for a show at B.B. Kings Blues Club in Times Square.  She performed as a back-up dancer for Wyclef Jean and Waka Flocka Flame!  I am still amazed at how quickly this came about.  She and several other dancers were sent a video of the dance and were expected to know it before coming to rehearsal, so they could just run it over and over.  The day of the show, Wyclef met with all the kids, introducing himself, and right before the show J got a picture with Waka.  B went to this show, too (I had to  work again..AARGHHH).  There's no way he'd miss his baby girl dance, lol.  I'm really glad one of us was there to see her.
  • She and some friends went to see Maroon 5 perform on the Today show.  They got on line at 3:30am at Rockefeller the rain.  
  • She got some beautiful new headshots taken.  
  • She finished all her school finals and Regent exams.
  • She and B went to see Shaping Sound at the Beacon Theater.
It's going to be a wonderful summer!  

Thursday, May 30, 2013

May 2013

I have decided to streamline my posts.  Now that the kids are older and only W is homeschooled  I'd like to try posting just once a month.  So here we are at the end of May 2013.

I already mentioned that W took a wonderful nanotechnology class at the beginning of May.  He also took 3 classes with our homeschool group at the Tanglewood Nature Preserve in Long Island.  The first class was "Forensics".  The kids learned about fingerprints, footprints, DNA, dental imprints, and piecing together a crime scene.


The second class was called, "Math in the Natural World".  Fibonacci numbers, bilateral and radial symmetry, and the reasons for the various shapes & patterns found in nature were actively discussed.  The instructor took them out on the nature trail to see these things up close.  Examples of these cool math patterns were found in beehives, skunk cabbage, ferns, trees, and insects.

Another month of science classes was completed at the Science Museum of Long Island.   So far he's had classes on:  microscopes, lights/lenses/lasers, types of  rocks/minerals, constellations, and more.   They always do part of the class outdoors with a nice walk around the woods.  W's class has about 8 kids who are all 11 to 15 years old.  One class he especially enjoyed was dissecting owl pellets.  He had done this a few years ago, but he's older now with a different perspective and understanding.

W's find in the owl pellet

A new activity W thought would be fun is parkour.   He's taking weekly classes now.   He is learning how to jump, flip, roll, and tumble on, through, and over various objects.  There are a lot of gymnastics and coordination moves involved.  He loves it.  The instructors are masters at parkour and so amazing to watch.

About a week ago, B took W to a NY Mets game.  They go together once or twice a season.  Citifield is so close to our home.  I dropped them off at the 7 train and picked them up a few hours later.  W has so much fun at these games because there's always something there for the kids to do and he comes home with some cool free stuff.

W getting ready for a dunk-tank pitch

Theater class is going very well.  I think it's the best money we've ever spent.  His reading confidence is through the roof.  Everyone in his teen groups is so friendly and supportive.  W was so worried about his reading - all the mono-/dialogues, memorization, and cold readings, but now, he looks forward to getting picked to read something.  He even requests to read.  I love this class.  I can't wait to see their big performance next month.  

CCD classes are over - his last class of this season was May 19.  He has one more year (7th grade) and then W makes his sacrament of Confirmation in the fall (or winter, maybe) of 8th grade.  He's been going to this class with the same kids since he was 2.  The new season starts at the end of September.

We are making good progress with the academics.  We will be on a semi-full schedule over the summer, so I figure we'll be done with math, spelling, and vocabulary sometime in autumn.  That's when I'm thinking about trying AoPS PreAlgebra... but we do love Saxon.  I'm still up in the air about choosing Saxon 8/7 or AoPS.   Well, we still have a few months to decide.  We have already started our 7th grade science and history programs, so we'll just continue with those.  W has also recently expressed an interest in Latin, rather than Spanish, so we are going to try it out.  I did some research and looked at tons of reviews and samples and finally settled on a program called, "Latin's Not So Tough".  It wasn't until after choosing that program that I noticed that they call themselves "the Saxon Math of Latin curriculums".  That might be why I was drawn to it.  I plan on starting with Level 2, which starts off with a review of level 1 (the alphabet and pronunciations).   Not sure if he'll enjoy it, but it will certainly help him with reading and vocabulary.

J said the shoot for the music video was great.  I dropped her off at 9:30am and they finally finished at around 11pm.  They did her hair and makeup - her hair was kept long and straight and her makeup was dark and almost goth-like.  She had a blast.  They even provided the kids with lunch and dinner.  Even though J hasn't had a lot of training in hip-hop, she has really come into it on her own.  I love watching her dance.  I can't wait to see this video.

She was also in another competition this month.  She is so enjoying the freedom of being an independent.  Nothing is holding her back.  She choreographed another solo (jazz) and just finished 2 days before the competition.  She's using a new studio and renting space as she needs it.  It's fantastic and it's a beautiful space.  She got a Platinum award for BOTH her solos and a "unique style" award for her new one.  One judge told her he could watch her dance all day and another said she loved the simplicity of her costume (a pretty little soft pink dress she just picked up the day before at Forever 21 for $13).  It was wonderful that J got all the recorded judges comment on a thumb drive.  Several of her friends came to cheer and support her - and there were a lot of kids there she knew from school or other studios.  There was no stress, no worries, and I can happily say that competitions have become fun and exciting again - just like they used to be years ago.

K finished up her internship in Manhattan this month and started a new job.  It's still part-time, but she's making more in 1 week here than she did in over a month at her other part-time job.  Now that her money situation is where she wants it (for now), she can focus more on getting her career off the ground.  She has an entrepreneurial mind and once she's determined, she can do anything.  But for now, she's putting away 3/4 of her money for a new (used) car.  

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

The Start of May

W went to a wonderful class at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island last week.  It was a 2-hour class for ages 11+ on Nanotechnology.  The idea is that materials at the nanoscale, measured in billionths of a meter, behave differently than at the macroscale.  Through several experiments, the kids could tell that nanotechnology is important in future products and technology.  One experiment involved exploding a film canister with alka-seltzer.  They also made a diamond molecule out of connectors and used a solar-panel and an LED to make light.  W really liked that class.  The instructor was great  - she kept his interest for the whole 2 hours.

J is looking so forward to summer.  The music video she is in is shooting next weekend (finally!) and she just got a 285 out of 300 at a dance competition last weekend.  She is competing again in a few weeks as an independent and will be choreographing yet another solo for it.  Over the next few weeks she will be figuring out studio practice time (she has several options for various studio to use) and costume.  Her Junior Project for school is also coming along nicely.  She finished the choreography and just needs to practice practice practice.  We get to view all of the junior class's routines in June.  I can't wait.

W and I are speeding through Saxon 76.  We love the book, but I can see how some families hate it.  There are a LOT of practice problems.  Each chapter has you do a 60-100 problem basic arithmetic drill, then about 10 problems they call "mental math", then you go over the 2-3-page new lesson, then do about 10 problems solidifying that new lesson, then 30 problems that are a mix of the last 10-15 lessons (the spiral).  Whew.  W and I are getting a bit worn out with all of that, so now we only do the new lesson, the 10 practice problems, and maybe 10-15 from the spiral.  It's because of that spiral that W has gotten so good at math and remembers everything, so I don't want to cut out too much of it.  I'll just pick and choose the examples he should do.  We'll move through the book much quicker this way and he'll still retain his love of math.  Any kind of busywork/tedium will kill a love of learning so quickly.  It has to be strategically planned to have the intended effect, but keep the kids engaged at the same time.  Thankfully, we are able to do that!

At theater class last week, W did a lot of cold readings.  He called me when the class was over and was so proud of himself.  He did it and wasn't even that nervous.  He said he hardly stumbled at all.  The other kids and the teachers complimented him on his delivery, too.  This is just what he needs to build his confidence and believe he is great reader.  He has come so far in only a few years - from even last summer!  He's like a different kid.  I am so grateful to be able to homeschool.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Some More Science...

The past 2 weeks of  homeschool group science classes have been great.  I think W is learning a lot.  This week his group was all about lights and lenses.  He's also happy to reconnect with friends he hasn't seen in a few years.  It's interesting to see a new dynamic where they have moved out of being little kids and into being teens and almost-teens.  I'm not seeing the exploring, running, and manhunt games W would partake in endlessly.  This interaction is more subdued and they mainly stand around together chatting.  There's some silliness, some more consciousness about how they look, and a lot more communication.  I like it - it's very cool to watch (from a long distance away, of course, lol).

At the science class
The week was also full of academics.  In science we did an experiment that explained about variables and how an egg floats in salt water.  I notice that a lot of the science experiments we do are pretty simple, but now W is at an age where it's more than just fun to do.  He gets it and writes out nice lab reports (on paper! - but if he'd rather use the white board sometimes, then I'll just take a picture, lol). Math was more stuff with decimals, percents, and fractions, grammar was verbs' present & past tense and present & past participles.  

W is doing lots of out-loud reading at his theater class.  His confidence is growing and thankfully, he's not as self-conscious as he used to be.  Having to "cold read" and memorize for this class is fun and doesn't seem like a chore.  I can't wait to see him in the June performance.  

Wow, this school year is almost over already.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Science Classes

It's springtime, and we're getting our science on in full force.  W has 1-2 classes each week at various places from now until June.   The other day's class was all about the microscope.  The kids put in a slide, manipulated the knobs and powers to adjust focus, and drew what they saw.  They also learned what all the parts of the microscope are called, labeling them on their worksheets.  This was a nice 90-minute class of all 6th-graders and up.  Several of W's friends were in the class as well.  He said he enjoyed it and is looking forward to next week.

W and the microscope

Academics are going well.  Saxon math is great - he is still doing the problems on his white board and it goes so fast.  I love the Saxon spiral with all the review.  W retains the math so much better and is so confident zipping through it.  He's doing lots of decimals, fractions, and percents now.  Sequential Spelling:  this is his favorite.  I write it, he reads it (twice), and every day is a test where he writes the words on the whiteboard.  I realize I only need the teacher guide, rather than any of the student books.  I'll remember that for 7th grade.  His test is on 25 words and he rarely gets any wrong.  This is a spiral program, too.  Every day's list of words are variations of the previous words with a few new ones thrown in.  Some are really simple, like "bats" and others are more difficult, like "splitting" - and both are in the same word list.  It works amazingly well for him.  I'm glad, too, because I keep researching his type of dyslexia and Sequential Spelling seems like the best program for him.  The more I research, the more specific a label I can get.  Dyslexia - Visual Dyslexia - Orthographic Dyslexia - Orthographic Dyslexia/Orthographic Processing Difficulties.  A label helps me find what others have done and various things I can try.

W is also doing very well with Wordly Wise 6 vocabulary.  I had no idea.  He remembers word meanings after one read-through and gets everything correct in the workbook.  I hate that I underestimate what he knows.  Today he read an entire 2-page passage out loud.  He read quickly with hardly any stumbles and had full comprehension.  It was wonderful.  Hake Grammar 6 we just zip through a couple of chapters a week.  He finds it easy, so he neither loves it nor hates it.  It's just there.

Right now he's getting his writing in with History, Science, and Poetry.  With the former 2 he jots things down as we read.  He is keeping a history timeline and is using the student book in science again.  With the Evan-Moor poetry workbook he writes out the answers to the comprehension questions.

New things are going on with my job.  I think I prayed too hard that I wouldn't have to work evenings anymore.  The idea was to switch my shift to the morning (8am-12pm) so W will be able to go back to scouts and start basketball or soccer - all of which include weekday evenings.  Instead, I'm getting laid off in 3 months - along with 120 other people.  It seems my entire department is relocating to North Carolina and Albany.  I'm checking around for other part-time morning work, but my company isn't hiring part-timers anymore, even though it would be an internal move.  If I don't get something else within the next 3 months, I'll be fine with my nice severance package.  I've been there for 7 years.  I love my job.  It will be sad come July, but hey, I'll have my evenings free.

Monday, March 25, 2013


I'm already planning for 7th grade.  I have been doing so much research and I'm so excited about these new things.  The ordering has begun and hopefully I'll have all of next year's curriculum before the summer.  Here's what we're using currently for 6th grade:
  • Literature:  Read & Understand Poetry
  • Spelling:  Sequential Spelling 1
  • Vocabulary:  Wordly Wise 6
  • Grammar:  Hake Grammar & Writing 6
  • Writing:  Wordsmith Apprentice
  • Math:  Saxon 7/6
  • History:  Story of Mankind
  • Science:  Apologia General Science
  • Art:  Artistic Pursuits Junior High Book 1
And 7th grade will look like this:

Literature:  Lightning Lit 7
We're ready to get back into some good literature.  After putting it aside for a while to focus more on W's ability to read, spell, and write, I think it's time.  This program has lots of comprehension questions (which W enjoys and is really good at - thank you Charlotte Mason), composition exercises (which W needs to start doing more of), and it uses only 4 books per year (well, 5 if you count the stories & poems book).

Spelling:  Sequential Spelling 2
He loved Sequential Spelling 1, so we might just continue with the series.  It definitely improved his spelling and reading.  He really enjoys using the whiteboard to go over the words and for the daily spelling test.

Vocabulary:   Wordly Wise 7
We got into a better groove with book 6 in the 2nd half of 6th grade.  We like it a lot.  I was looking at various other vocab programs, but they looked so dry and boring.  Wordly Wise also has online pages full of games that go along with the book you're using.

Grammar:  Killgallon Elementary Story Grammar
This is a program I just found out about from one of the homeschool message board I visit.  A mom raved about it after using it with her dyslexic son.  I figured why not give it a try.  Hake Grammar was fine, but we'd both like to try something new with a different flair to it.

Writing:  Killgallon Elementary Sentence Composing
This is something we'll use together with the grammar book.  It's supposed to be a different way of getting kids to like writing.  Anything that could do that, I'll try.  W is a very reluctant writer, but this looks fun and engaging and I've read many great things about it.  I think starting with the Elementary books would be a perfect step into better writing for W.  If he does well with this, we'll use the middle school books next year.

Math:  Art of Problem Solving PreAlgebra
As much as we love Saxon, I'm dying to try this program.  W and I looked at a bunch of sample pages together and he loved what he saw.  This is a program for kids who are good at math.  W is good at math and will do well with a new, more in-depth approach. The AoPS website also has tons of videos aligned to the book.

History:  K12 Human Odyssey 1
I have heard such good things about this history book that I couldn't wait to get a copy.  I just got it in the mail today, as a matter of fact  We will start using it in 6th grade then into 7th, Then part-way through 7th we may be ready for book 2.  It's big and colorful and looks a lot more interesting than what we've used in the past.  For history W and I just read and discuss.  Sometimes he'll jot down names and events so he'll remember them.  I think we'll start a new notebooked timeline with this since it starts at pre-history.  So reading, discussing, timeline, documentaries, and field trips should make for a nice 7th grade history program.

Geography:  Runkle's World Physical Geography
Someone somewhere mentioned this set of books and I fell in love with them after seeing excerpts.  We probably don't need a geography program, since we do mapwork during history (and other) readings, but this goes in-depth and looks really enjoyable.  I plan on using these books over the course of several years.  Our geography has been choppy and scattered and I think this will bring it all together.  Check out this mom's review.

Science:  Apologia General Science (continued)
I know I said we weren't feeling the Apologia so much, but after revamping the way we use the book, we're starting to like it again.  We do science much like we do history - reading and discussing.  We enjoy the experiments and try to really get into understanding what's going on here.  We also supplement with lots of documentaries and field trips and plan on continuing this method throughout 7th grade.  The young earth thing doesn't bother me so much since I keep reading that this is one of the best programs out there.  We'll stick with it for now.

Art:  Artistic Pursuits Junior High Book 1 (continued)
We crack this book open maybe a couple of times a month.  It's fun and W likes it, so I plan on using it more in 7th grade.

OK, since I was on a roll this weekend, 8th grade may look like this (Hey, gotta plan ahead)

Literature:  Lightning Lit 8
Spelling:  Sequential Spelling 3
Vocabulary:   Wordly Wise 8
-  Killgallon Grammar for Middle School OR
-  Painless Grammar
-  Killgallon Sentence Composing & Paragraphs for Middle School OR
-  Writeshop 1 w/Copywork & Dictation book OR
-  Jump-In OR
-  Wordsmith
-  Foerster's Algebra 1 OR
-  Art of Problem Solving Intro to Algebra OR
-  Saxon Algebra 1
History:  K12 Human Odyssey 2 into 3
Geography:  Runkle Geography (continued)
Science:  Apologia Physical Science - maybe - if we're not tired of it by then, lol.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Girls

What a great week.  Ever since J left her dance studio, so many great things have happened.  First, she was chosen to dance in her school's gospel show.  It is such a huge honor to be chosen for ANY performance at this school.  This is no ordinary high school.  Second, she was so excited to get to work the school's open house.  She sold sweatshirts and greeted the accepted 8th & 9th graders with an overly-cheerful, "Welcome to LaGuardia!!".  She had a blast.  Third, she has been acing her choreography class at school.  The dance chairperson loves everything she choreographs.  J's grades have been well into the 90s for all dances.  This week, the assignment was to go to the school's art gallery, choose a piece, interview the artist, and choreograph a dance based on the art piece.   J did really well with this.  And finally, J will be dancing in a new music video.  This is an awesome opportunity for her.  She's in rehearsals for the next few weeks and it's being shot sometime in April.  She's looking forward to the all-day shoot along with the hair, makeup, and costuming!

J's solo 2012
It is times like this when I know her guardian angel has stepped in.  It was the right time for her to part with the studio in order to be able to move forward in her life.

K in Florida
K just got home from Florida on Monday.  She spent a week down in Fort Lauderdale and Miami.  She had a great time on the beach, at different clubs, and being with 3 of her friends all week.  It's weird to think of her as a grown-up.  She booked and planned everything herself -no help from me at all.  She worked tons of extra hours during the weeks prior to her trip so she'd have plenty of spending money.  She said she had the best time.

I miss being young.

Thursday, March 14, 2013


After doing some serious hibernating for the last few months we decided to get back into doing some group classes.  This week W went to a great class at the Alley Pond Environmental Center on Wetlands.  There were about 8 middle/high school aged kids there - all intently focused and fully participating.  I can imagine the nonsense these people have to go through with chatty, unfocused school kids who are just happy to get out of their building for a few hours.  A group of homeschoolers must be so refreshing for them.  The class was all about marshes and the various plants and animals that inhabit them.  The kids tested the brackish water in the creek:  temperature, pH level, turbidity, and oxygen levels.  W really enjoyed the class (the instructor was fantastic) and was happy to be with friends he hasn't seen in a while.

Inside the APEC classroom
Info on how to test the creek water
Out on the marsh

Math:  (Saxon) Angles & lines, multiplying & reducing fractions.  Review of percent, measurement, multiples, mixed numbers, average, GCF, perimeter, diameter/radius
English:  (Hake) Future tense, capitalization in sentences, "I", and poetry, & irregular plural nouns.  Review of sentence types, compound nouns, simple subjects, verb phrases, vocabulary words, abstract & concrete nouns, possessives, fragments & run-ons, past/present tense.  (Seq Spelling) Days 13-16.  (Wordsmith Apprentice)  Introduction to writing
History:  (Story of Mankind) Hieroglyphics
Science:  APEC field trip:  Wetland Ecology & Water Testing,  (Apologia) The Scientific Method

And I just have to throw one more of these out there:

50 reasons why NYC is the greatest city in the world

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Best City in the World

I've been saying it since forever.  It's nice that many others feel this way, too.  Check out these great articles from this week:

Notable parents on why NYC is the best city in the world


Friday, March 08, 2013

Doin' It Our Way

W is 12 years old today!  When I started this blog he was 3.  I can't believe how fast that went.

So, academics are fun once again.  I decided that we don't need to do things the way anyone else does them.  We have our own awesome way of learning and we love it.

Saxon Math:  W does the mental math problems before each lesson as fast as he can.  Then we go over the new lesson.  I use a 1.5'x2' dry-erase board with lots of colored markers.  W then does all the practice and regular problems on the dry-erase board.  He zips through the whole lesson so fast this way.  He doesn't even bother writing in the workbook - we just check off the page.  He's mastered the word problem, too.  I love Saxon.

Sequential Spelling:  This is perfect to use a dry-erase board with.  I write all the spelling words out, using a different color for the inside root sound.  He reads them all and then takes a spelling test - again right on the dry-erase board.  His handwriting is neat and I don't think he's spelled any words wrong yet.  In the workbook, he does the exercise that goes with that day's list.  This program is noticeably helping with W's reading.  Love this, too.

Hake Grammar & Writing:   There hasn't been any significant writing with this book yet, so we just fly through a chapter verbally.  I point to each exercise and he tells me the answers.  Without the tedium of writing things down, he is enjoying and retaining almost all of it so far.  I love Hake since it's set up the same way as Saxon Math is.  It has the same repetitive vibe to it that W does well with.  Heavier writing assignments will certainly be written out when they come up.

The Story of Mankind:  This is just fun to read aloud together.  He writes key terms, names, and events down on the dry-erase board.  I believe writing things down helps you remember them.  Then he narrates back the whole chapter.  He remembers everything, in order, and makes his own connections.  Whatever we read about in history we like to watch a documentary, do a project, and/or go to a museum to see things up close and get a better understanding.

Apologia General Science:  We're trying to make this a lot more interactive and interesting.  I'm using it as a readaloud and W (just like with history) writes down key terms, names, dates, etc.  We spend a lot of time doing the experiment and this involves more writing, drawing conclusions, and opening ourselves up to further investigation.  Again we'll use documentaries and field trips with the lessons.

We have other workbooks we use here and there, too.  These are more for variety, though, and include art, Spanish, vocabulary, poetry, editing, and puzzles.  He's starting a few computer programming courses as well.  I'm feeling so good about his academics.  We're in a good flow and we're both enjoying ourselves and getting things done quickly.

I did some reading on the Common Core and how everyone is up in a panic about it.  It pretty much looks like what we've been doing as homeschoolers anyway.  I mean, it's natural for our lessons (and lives) to contain a lot of critical reading/thinking, conceptual understandings, broadened worldviews, cogent reasoning, use of evidence, mathematical understanding and coherence, mathematical reasoning, and thinking statistically.  There's nothing in our way, like endless testing, nor do we need to do any accommodating for a classroom of kids - with all the varying abilities, needs, learning rates, and achievement levels.  I honestly believe homeschoolers may have the advantage here.  In NYC the 7th grade tests at the public schools that are needed for entry to most public high schools will soon conform to Common Core.  The SATs will as well.  I'm not worried at all.

J has decided to part ways with her dance studio.  It was a good 8.5-year run.  She learned a lot, experienced a lot, won a lot, and had a lot of fun.  She'll miss teaching her babies, but the world holds a lot more out there for her. First and foremost is focusing on her studies at school.  History, Science, English, & Math are key right now.  She is also in the advanced tap class, learning to choreograph, and taking tons of ballet and modern in her 15 hours of dance at school each week.  She is working on a project with another girl (and a new one with a boy) before and after school for her choreography class.  Her Junior Project is coming up soon, too, where she has to choreograph and perform an original dance worth half her grade.  Summer can now be filled with dance intensives and advanced classes, and she will start going on auditions and making career choices in senior year.  She went out on a high note, though, as last week she competed in NJ and came away with 6 High Platinum awards (the highest) and several overalls.  One High Platinum was for her new solo she choreographed completely by herself (just as she did last year).  Competitions are always great and it's so fun having a high award to validate all your hard work, but she's ready for the next stage of life.  I can't be more proud of her dedication and the fact that she knows exactly what she wants and is taking the steps to get there.