Sunday, December 27, 2015

Another Year Gone By

I know it's been a while since I posted but things around here have been so busy.  I started working full-time in September and that has been a bit of an adjustment.  I's great now, though.  W has fallen into his new routine nicely.  He's covering a lot of stuff for ninth grade:  Algebra 2, Life Science, Earth Science, World History, US History, Language Arts, Literature, Music, Art, Physical Fitness, and Computer Science.  I make a list of what he should read and do and he does it.  I check it in the evenings and we do other subjects together when I'm home.  He is hell-bent on keeping up with his subjects so he can get into highly selective colleges on scholarship.  These are his goals and I couldn't be prouder.

He's using various curriculum and resources for the main subjects.  Rounding out his education are the following:
  • 90-minute Muay Thai classes 3x a week.  
  • In-depth study and research on 2D animation (incl.  cartooning, technique, biographies, and careers).  He's flying through sketchbooks and artist pens and using a few animation software programs
  • Mastering the tenor ukulele and now he has added piano and electric guitar to his current interests.  He's requested formal lessons which will probably start in January or February.

J has gotten all As again this semester.  She is teaching every Saturday at a local competition dance studio, and she is still assisting and doing many projects with a big choreographer (including a flash mob you can see HERE).

K is still at her beautiful, upscale, very busy salon doing what she loves.  

We saw the tree again at Rockefeller Plaza, visited our beloved Toys R Us in Times Square for the last time (they're closing), and saw my husband's rock band play at The Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square, The Cutting Room in Murray Hill, and Left Field's in the Lower East Side.

We had a wonderful Christmas this year.  We were all together decorating our new stockings on Christmas Eve with glitter, glue, and fabric paint.  We slept at home for first time in years and it was great.  I got my annual bronchitis/laryngitis Christmas week, so I had to miss the choir carols and mass singing this year.  But it's ok and should clear up by next week.  Christmas morning we opened all our gifts and got to my mom's in Long Island around 11:30am.  She had a huge brunch waiting for us.  My sister and step-sister and family all were there too and then we had another round of presents opening.  We got to MIL's house at around 6:30pm and B's whole family was there.  More food and more presents were waiting for us.  This whole holiday season was so stress free.  That's my new way of life, I've decided.  I found THIS today and it sums up exactly how I live now.

Life is so wonderful.  I feel blessed beyond belief.  I hope everyone has a Happy New Year!!

Sunday, October 11, 2015


Still unschooling, still loving it.

Here's what unschooling has looked like over the past month:
  • Going to a Not-Back-to School teen homeschool picnic on the beach
  • Learning and trying to master the soprano ukulele
  • A new interest (and a whole lot of research) in digital animation
  • A day spent at the Museum of the City of New York and Times Square
  • Really enjoying the Life of Fred high school language arts series books and paragraph editing workbooks.  
  • A day spent playing dodge ball and laser tag ending with a sleepover
  • The almost daily routine of W thanking me for homeschooling him (lol)
  • A new tenor ukulele
  • Hanging out at Dave & Buster's with his friends
  • Researching nutrition and whole-food living
  • A new interest (and a whole lot of research) in music editing
Life is more fun than ever lately.  W is probably the most happy and content person I know.  He's been doing the dishes, keeping his room clean, reading a lot, doing his workbooks, and enjoying his life so much.  He usually gets this way, feeling all grateful and satisfied when he see other kids having to go off to school in September.

He's been doing a lot, including starting to take public transportation by himself.  His sisters were 14 when they were taking the trains and buses alone, so he's right in line with that.  We just got his student Metrocards last week, too.  He met a friend at the Rockefeller Plaza Nintendo store and they took a train and bus to Brooklyn.  He's my last baby and it's hard letting go.  Independence and maturity go hand-in-hand with homeschooling, so I'm not worried.

J has been assisting her choreographer all summer, teaching weekly classes at a dance studio, and performing.  A new up-and-coming artist saw her dance on her choreographer's Instagram and asked him if she could be his background dancer at a showcase in Manhattan.  What an amazing opportunity!  She performed with this artist a couple of weeks later at the Highline Ballroom down in Chelsea.  Move-in day at AMDA is this week and we're getting ready.  It's her second year and she's so excited.  This should be a very interesting year for her.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Summer Days

As soon as it gets over 80 degrees, I prefer to stay indoors with my AC on.  I tolerated the heat a lot better when I was younger, but now I just don't want to deal with it at all.  We don't have the beach house anymore - that's where summer was always wonderful.  I took advantage of the fact that it was a 5-minute walk down to the beach.  Now I'd have to drive about 30 minutes and never feel like it's worth it.  Well, my countdown to September and the cooler weather has officially begun.  :)

The end of the school year brought with it a prom for the NY homeschooled teens!  It took place down in SoHo at the end of June.  W and 7 of his friends went in a limo together.  The kids were all so beautifully dressed.  W even kept his jacket and bow tie on all night.  There was music and food and everyone said it was so fun. The total turnout was around 75 kids.  What a great success.  Well done to the teens who put it all together!  W and a few other kids had a sleepover afterwards and he spent the next day back in Manhattan trying out a few teen classes.  A few of his friends have been going to them all year and he wanted to see if they were something he'd like to do in the fall.  He's still not sure yet, but we have time.

I feel so stress-free about his high school years.  A plan is in place and he's happy with it.  There are goals and he's working toward them.  I believe that to be the key to happiness and fulfillment and success.  

Since J has been home from college, she has been busy.  She worked on another music video last month, shooting in a various locations, she's been mixing and cutting music for her choreographer's classes, assisting him at master classes and with company choreo at different studios, learned a tap duet 2-days before performing it in a recital in Long Island, and landed a perfect summer job.  She also turned 19 last week!  I can't get over how fast time flies.  K has also been busy.  She's building a nice-sized clientele at the salon (and she gave J gorgeous blond highlights for the summer, too).  Five months so far at her job and she still finds it awesome.

So, as the summer thankfully is starting wind down, I find myself excited about autumn.  Not just the cooler weather, but J's new year at school and W's unschooled teen years.  As my kids get older I realize there is not much I can write about their lives in a blog.  Hence, these updates will be more along the lines of several times a year or so.  I'm still answering lots of email questions and doing my best to help newbies to the NY homeschool life (  I enjoy that, so keep 'em coming, lol.  

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Almost Summer

At the adventure park
In the past month, W has done some really fun things.  We had 2 homeschool get-togethers at a large state park, went to an "adventure park" where the kids are harnessed high above the ground and have to go over rope and stick bridges and get to zip-line, and our good old standby:  The NY Hall of Science.  W just woke up and felt like going there again.  I'm always willing to take him there since it's free for us and because, well, it's science.

So speaking of intrinsic motivation, this week, after looking at and discussing colleges and plans for the future, W has decided he'd like to continue with daily formal academics.  I told him I hope he's not saying that for me.  I'm fine with however he'd like to "do school".  But he said he realized that there's no way he's not going to do everything he can to ace all the tests he has to take and get into his college of choice.  So we came up with yet another weekly schedule for the rest of 8th grade and through the summer.  After pulling out every single resource we have in the house and having him go through everything he has decided to continue using Saxon Algebra 1 (he loves Saxon), a couple of Barron's "Painless" series books, and a reading comprehension workbook.  This sounds fine to me.  I'll go along with whatever he wants to do.  Knowing his track record, this all may change next week.  But then again, HE is doing all the picking, choosing, and scheduling, so we'll see.

Another new thing going on is that W has been getting really serious about exercise, fitness, and nutrition. This, along with his ongoing interest in computer engineering, our restaurant adventure, lots of field trips, and interest-based academics, will keep him plenty busy all summer.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Unschooling and High School

So as we revert back to a more natural, organic education for W, I can honestly say my anxiety about the teen years has lessened tremendously.  When he originally came to me requesting a more formal curriculum and schedule (about 6 years ago, following J's lead), I was hesitant, but obliged.  I know he wants to want the structure, but the older he got, the less willing he was to follow through.  I felt I was the one who needed to push and prod and dare I say "coerce" him into doing his work several days a week as we'd planned.  Well, it made us both miserable and I won't do that anymore.

I mean, it really doesn't make sense.  If there is no intrinsic motivation to learn something, then there won't be much learning taking place.  I feel it's a huge waste of time and energy for the sole purpose of checking off a box that "it got done".  But the checked box is a ruse because most of the info covered is usually forgotten in only a few days.  How is that ok?  That's not learning.

In the few months since we have started unschooling, W has done more academically than ever before.  He asked to have my new tablet (that I'm not using) and if I could download certain books on it for him.  I think this is the first time in his life he expressed any interest in reading a book.  He has rekindled interests in piano, cooking, bike riding, and building.  He is in the process of building a skateboard (long board) from scratch.  When W finds something of interest, there's no stopping his research.  For example, the other day B was wondering what other foods the bearded dragon could eat.  W spent over an hour on various websites, taking notes, and following the many rabbit trails pertaining to overall bearded dragon care.  I guarantee he won't be forgetting any of it.

He's also started thinking about college.  As a matter of fact, we sat down together researching colleges, majors, requirements, and what he'd like to do for high school.  We also looked at trade-schools, graduate schools, and what kinds of jobs and careers fit his current interests.  The 4-year (tentative) high school plan is set and I haven't felt this relaxed about anything in my life.  It includes projects, research, reading, standardized tests, college-level classes, volunteering, apprenticeships, employment, field trips, restaurants, and homeschool group classes.

It's all about intrinsic motivation.  I believe it's the real key to a happy, meaningful, and productive life.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Great Restaurant Adventure #4: Bangladesh

Today we went out to Jackson Heights, Queens for some Bangladeshi food.  A lot of the restaurants in that area are buffet style and you kind of have to know what things are.  We have no idea what's what, so we decided to go with our favorite cart food - Sammy's - on 73rd Street and Broadway.  They have this incredible chicken over rice with salad and white sauce.  They even won the highly coveted Vendy Award.  It's very South Asian, but I'm not sure if we could say it was specifically Bangladeshi.

There's always a line (pic from yelp)

Sooo, we stopped in an authentic Bangladeshi restaurant called Khaabar Baari to grab some dessert.  Thankfully, they were all in the glass counter up front and we were able to ask what they were, lol.  W and I chose little milk sweets.  One was called "sandesh" and the other was a type of "ras malai".  We ate them in the car on the way home.  They were sweet, milky-cheesy tasting and crumbly.  Really yummy.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Brag Post

My children never cease to amaze me and make me proud.

A year ago, K had just started beauty school.  Within a month of graduating, she landed a position in an upscale styling salon (while still continuing to work as a server in an ale house near home).

She took her cosmetology practical state board exam on Monday and on Wednesday she got the email that she passed.  On Saturday (on a whim) she decided to update her resume and called a bigger and better salon closer to home.  They told her to come in for an interview and had her demonstrate a hair blowout.  The ad required 3 years experience, but they were so impressed by her skills, they hired her on the spot!  She was not expecting to get hired so quickly.  She's not even starting as an assistant - she's going in as a full hairdresser/hairstylist.  Cuts, color, highlights, treatments, everything.

J is getting all As and Bs in school.She is pushing herself beyond any limit she's ever had to go through.  She's memorizing scenes, learning to lose her Queens accent, singing more than ever, and dancing more than 20 hours a week.  She auditioned for and made it into the school-wide tap showcase.  Only 10 kids were chosen and she was picked to be in a trio. I can't wait to see this performance.  She has adjusted so well to living on her own.  They don't do meal plans there, so she grocery shops and cooks her own food, does her own laundry, and is never late for, nor missed a class.  She keeps her dorm room super clean and it seems to be the room all her friends hang out in.

She is also still assisting a major choreographer on the weekends.  She travels with him all around the tri-state area to different studios teaching master classes, competition solos and group numbers, and special recreational classes.  She is an incredible teacher.

I am constantly in awe of their confidence, maturity, independence, and fierce determination.  This has made them both stand out in almost every situation.  I truly believe homeschooling had a huge hand in this.

W seems to be on that same path.  He knows what he wants, he is focused and determined, and already independent and confident.  He has overcome almost all of his visual processing issues and dyslexia.  Looking at the diagnostic report from just 3 years ago, you wouldn't know it was the same kid.  I see a great future for him as well.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Happy Birthday!

I think the freezing cold, snowy NYC winter is finally ending.  I love the cold and the winter, but the snow became too much.  We still got out of the house a lot, though.  W has been meeting up with his friends for go-karts, laser tag and dodge ball, bowling, and for some cool classes, including a seal necropsy at the Riverhead Aquarium.

That was an awesome experience.  A seal was found in the Bellport Harbor (Long Island), having died of some unknown cause.  It was taken to the aquarium and put in a freezer.  It was thawed out for the teens to perform an autopsy on it.  After a few kids started cutting open the skin, they measured its blubber layer.  Then, using scalpels, they got most of the skin off and broke through the breastbone.  The organs looked good.  The instructor cut open the heart to see if there was heartworm (which seals can get just like dogs can).  Then she spent a few minutes feeling the lungs for any parasites or disease.  When she opened the stomach we saw a lot of sand and rocks in there.  This is what killed the seal.  When seals are stressed they eat things they're not supposed to.  It was sad to think the seal was stressed for any reason, but seals really don't belong in Bellport Harbor - or anywhere in Long Island, really.  It was so cool for W to experience a bit of what veterinarians and forensic workers do.  

W made his Confirmation last week!   11 years of catechism classes and now he's got 4 sacraments under his belt.  He started classes at 2 years old since he begged to go - and the third child was free,   It's going to be weird not having classes anymore, but he's glad to have reached the end.  The ceremony was wonderful.  J was his sponsor and went up with him as he got the chrism oil.  At his Christening, his father and I answered questions from the priest on what we believe.  At Confirmation, W was asked the same questions from the bishop and was able to answer for himself.  It's such a beautiful full circle.  We all went out for a great lunch afterwards.  The next day W turned 14.  The years really went by quickly.  8th grade will be over in 3 months and he'll begin his high school years. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Sample Quarterly Report (8th Grade)

Quarterly Report  #3                                        2014-2015

Jan 31, 2015 to Apr 15, 2015
Apr 15, 2015
Child's Name
NYC Student ID:  ___________________ (optional)
DOB:  ____________         Grade Level:  8
Address:  ___________________________________
________ is progressing at a satisfactory level or above in all subject matter. He has had instruction in all subjects listed in Section 100.10 of the Regulations of the New York State Commissioner of Education and as outlined in ________’s Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP). The following table lists some of his many resources and experiences this quarter:

  • Holt Science & Technology: Physical Science (Holt, Rhinehart, & Winston - Harcourt Education Company, 2007) Units 3-5, Chapters 10-16
  • Saxon Math Algebra 1: An Incremental Development, 3rd edition (John H. Saxon, Jr. - Saxon Publishers Inc., 2003)  Lessons 41-75
  • Story of the World 4:  The Modern Age (Susan Wise Bauer, 2005)  Chapters 1-15
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends (Shel Silverstein, 1974)
  • Weekly religious education classes, retreat, & Sacrament of Confirmation
  • Field Trips/Outside Classes:   Washington D.C.  - 2 days of sightseeing and visiting local TV station. Department of Homeland Security (26 Federal Plaza, NY) - 5 hour class and presentation.   National Weather Service at Brookhaven National Lab (Upton, NY) - 2 hour class.   NY Hall of Science (Corona, NY) - free exploration.   Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY) - 2 hour class and tour.   UMake Lab (Massapequa, NY) - "Into to 3D modeling & 3D Printing"
  • Community Service:  40+ hours of volunteer work for ___________ (fundraising, delivering supplies, etc. for animal shelters and rescues in Queens and Long Island)  

_________ has covered at least 80% of the planned material for this quarter.  He has had no absences from  instruction this quarter and has exceeded the required hours of instruction (247.5).                              

Parent Signature  


Ok, so it's basically the same quarterly I've always used, but with a little extra detail. I've always said that my sample IHIP is just a general outline of what you "may or may not" be using this year. This new quarterly states what you've actually used and some great educational things you did. I still believe that no one at the district office cares about the awesome homeschooly things you do and that that they are there for the sole reason of checking off a box, but these quarterlies are great for your own records, portfolios, scrapbooks, etc.  And I think it looks pretty cool, too.

I am fully aware that it's not necessary (i.e. in the NY State Regulations) to include some of the information I've included in this new quarterly, but it's just a sample and it covers just about all the bases. It should satisfy even the strictest districts. Plus, it still only takes a few minutes to write up and it's still less than a page long. This is how I'll be doing mine from now on.

p.s. If you'd like to use this sample for grades 1-6, remember that the required hours of instruction are 225 per quarter, not 247.5.

p.p.s.  I create it in Google Documents using tables and shading, then save as a PDF.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Science, Weapons, and Weather

My homeschool groups are so active and I'm seeing so many amazing classes and trips for teens.  It's so great to see how many homeschoolers in this age group are out there.  Just within the last few months I've seen classes being given for pottery, creative writing, tennis, philosophy, science lab, robotics, debate, string theory, non-fiction writing, drawing, psychology, glass working, comedy improv, ethics, American history, chemistry, digital photography, chess, cooking, ancient civilizations, rhetoric, fencing, video production, song writing, and a ton more.  Plus list upon list of classes for teens (homeschooled or otherwise) given at various museums, galleries, labs, theaters, and parks.  The choices are almost overwhelming (in a good way).  We may not get to very many of them, but knowing they're there is great.  I love my city.

We made a visit to the NY Hall of Science last week.  We haven't been there in so long.  Now that I'm back at my old job, I (we) have the corporate membership to everything again.  They redid the place.  The lower level is all maker, DIY, and lab stuff now.  They have better hours than they used to, too.

Two great homeschool group trips were held this week.  In the first, we were part of a wonderful class at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  It was on weapons used throughout the world from the Sumerians and Assyrians to World War I.  Our instructor is a homeschool mom and also a college professor of history.  You can tell by the way she put everything together (the handout, the tour, the topics) and by the way she spoke that she truly loves history.  Anything becomes so much more engaging when taught by a person so passionate about it.

Met Museum

The other trip this week was to the National Weather Service at the Brookhaven National Laboratory.  This is the office where all of the weather alerts, warnings, and advisories come from.  They are in constant contact with the mayor, schools chancellor, and all the major local tv and radio stations.  They are present for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, New Years Eve in Times Square and for events at Met Life Stadium.  We discussed so many things about weather, including the upcoming snow storms, the major hurricanes our area had, and the recent tornado watches.  We got to see the main area where several people were monitoring a number of computers, televisions, barometric pressure-readers, and satellites, and clocks (set to "z-time").  Our guide was a meteorologist who also does outreach.

National Weather Service at the Brookhaven National Lab

National Weather Service