Thursday, August 26, 2010

the big white dog blog

Because I don't have enough places to write down my thoughts, I've decided to give April her own blog. Check out the Big White Dog Blog.

Things are going smoothly! Read all about it over there.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

knee-deep in planning

(The boys enjoying constructing bits of stories into fairy tales -- "Crazy Fables" from Didax.)

It seems like just yesterday I was bemoaning the fact that we all felt very "done" with our school year. Suddenly, we all are seeming very "done" with summer. So I've had to kick the fall planning into high gear around here lately so that we're ready to start up again full-guns come the day after Labor Day. I'll break our fall plans down bit by bit for those of you who, like me, enjoy that sort of thing. For those of you who don't, skip to the bottom of this post for a peak at my personal fall project!

Our school year is going to go something like this: We'll be doing 3 cultural blocks between now and Zoo Boy's 8th birthday based on the 2nd Grade Enki Education curriculum -- African American/Harriet Tubman; British Isles/John Muir; and Native American (Apache)/Stalking Wolf. After The Boy turns 8, we'll move into the 3rd Grade Enki format, spending the rest of the year working within the context of Haudenoshaunee (Iroquois) culture. Our language arts, math, science, art, and music/movement work will all occur within the context of these cultures.

(J uses our Collie, Joy, to move the sheep between pastures.)

Since natural science is such a normal part of our everyday existence, I don't really plan on doing much formally with that. We'll still have our daily morning walks, and I'm planning on fitting in a true nature walk once a week as well. We'll also, no doubt, spend much of our free time with friends enjoying the outdoors, nature centers, and museums, as we have in past year. Perhaps we'll even throw in a program or class here or there, although J told me that he feels like he knows so much about nature and animals now that he doesn't learn much when he takes those classes, and Zoo Boy agreed. So I'll probably leave it up to them as to which programs they feels like they could benefit from.

(Zoo Boy works with the Therapeutic Listening Program while J and he play a game of MadLibs.)

Both boys are going to continue with Occupational Therapy/Sensory Integration Therapy for the coming school year. Both are working with the Therapeutic Listening Program, which I will write more about in a future post, and the OTs are going to help us work on their eating issues.

We're also establishing a Family Dinner Time -- this is going to sound dopey to most folks, but we've really not been able to eat meals together, not only due to schedules (I'm usually working at dinner time), but because the kids have had trouble sticking with us through meals of foods they do not eat. Both have made enough progress, however, that it's completely reasonable to expect them to try all of the foods that The Map Man and I are eating for dinner. So making sure that we sit down to a meal together several times a week is going to be a must.

They are also going to select, shop for, and prepare one meal a week for the family to eat together. They are both stressed and excited about that. I think they are ready to add the important life skill of planning and cooking a meal, and I'm hoping that being involved in providing the meal will motivate them further to give new foods a reasonable chance.

(The boys attended a "touch tank" program at the town library recently.)

J is asking for some hard physical science classes, but I'm having trouble finding that for him. Instead, we'll renew our membership at the very expensive but also very worthwhile CT Science Center and plan on spending a couple days a month there. With the proper timing, we've always had luck at finding museum educators (real live working scientists) available for impromptu programs and demonstrations so that the boys get a closer look at the equipment and work being done at the museum. If I manage to pull enough energy together, I may try to arrange for some classes there for homeschoolers as well if somebody else doesn't do it first. We've also got the Springfield Science Museum as a back-up plan, and we're definitely planning to take a longer trip to the Boston Science Museum as well.

(Buzz, buzz, a model of a mosquito out of K'nex building toys, built by Zoo Boy.)

Our curriculum will continue to be rich in art -- drawing and painting will occur on a weekly basis here at home. In addition, we're looking into pottery classes (since sculpting is one area I feel that I've been a bit negligent with ), and the kids will again participate in a class about building/sculpting with Keva blocks.

Performing arts wise, J has turned down an opportunity to get more involved with theater in favor of expanding on his dancing. He'll be taking two dance classes at his new, specialized dance school (which concentrates on Ballet) -- Ballet and Modern. In addition, he'll be taking a class in Jazz and another class in Tap with the school he had dance camp with this summer. And he'll be involved in a production of The Nutcracker with the specialized school, so there will be weekly rehearsals for that as well. He also plans on singing with the Youth Chorus he's been with for the past two years, although one of the performance dates conflicts with The Nutcracker -- we're holding our breaths and hoping that timing, etc, works out that he can participate in both shows, but we won't know that until the end of September. And he's still asking for guitar lessons, which I'm trying to find a way to arrange (and pay for).

(The boys have been having fun setting up various scenes and scenarios with their Playmobil castle sets to surprise each other with.)

I've been particularly careful this year not to over-schedule activities (although it might not see like it from the above!). Last spring we spent too much time driving from place to place, and didn't have much time just to hang out here at home. I think I've fixed that with our new schedule. We're going to be busy with school work each morning for 4 hours during the week (Mondays will be classes with the Homeschool group, Tuesday through Friday will be here). Then after lunch and rest, there will be a good sized chunk of time with nothing regular schedules, which can be used for hanging out here playing, getting together with friends, or visiting museum and nature centers, etc. Tuesdays we have OT for an hour mid-afternoon, and Thursdays it's Spanish class (again an hour). And there's dance Monday, Thursday, and Friday evenings. But still plenty of time to be a little "loose" and unscheduled each day.

(J plays Monopoly with some stuffed friends.)

All in all, I think it's going to be an exciting year! We're wrapping up our summer with a reading of the book Prince Siddhartha: The Story of Buddha, by Jonathan Landaw and Janet Brooke, which the boys are very much enjoying. They are also completing a Geometry and Measurement workbook that they've worked on this summer. All should wrap up by next week, when The Map Man will have the week off so that we can do some fun family activities to launch us into the new year!

Oh, and here's my fall project. This is April. She's an 8 year old Akbash Dog that I adopted from a local town pound. She was surrendered there when her owners sold their cattle farm and they couldn't find a home for her. She's not a pet, she's a working Livestock Guardian Dog (LGD). I will write more about LGDs in general and April in particular as my project progresses, but for right now I'll just say that she's arriving here this evening, and my first order of business will be to try to gain her trust and convince her that sheep and poultry are as important to guard as cows are. I expect my initial work with her to take about 6 to 8 weeks, at which point she'll hopefully turn out to be a fabulously useful addition to our farm!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

just for fun

I'm hoping this video comes through OK -- I'm unable to check it on my computer because of all the problems I'm having with it, so if whoever sees this first can leave me a comment to let me know if it can be seen and heard, I'd appreciated it!

This was just too fun not to post -- my boys (the smaller two)having fun with a couple of their cousins this week. Pretty indicative of the type of stuff we've been doing the past couple of weeks -- having nothing but fun! We've been catching up on our social time with family and friends, since we had such a busy summer up to this point.

I'm loving all the relaxation time, but it's really time for me to get serious about planning for the fall. I'll start some more serious posts as soon as our lives get a little more serious!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

movie recommendation

Ok, so it seems a little bit silly to not post in so long, then come back with just a movie recommendation, but really, this is a WONDERFUL movie. May very well even replace Sommersby as my all-time favorite. (And if you haven't seen Sommersby, you're missing out!)

The movie? Australia. It's on HBO right now, which I'm pretty sure means it's in the video stores, etc. First of all, there's Hugh Jackman, which honestly, is a good enough reason to see ANY movie that he's in. Not only is he yummalicious eye-candy, but he's a darned good actor to boot. In this particular movie, he plays a very Eastwood-esque Australian cowboy (which always gets my motor running anyway). Second of all is the rest of the cast, which is top-notch, including Nicole Kidman, who I almost always love in everything she does, and this is, I think, her best performance since Moulin Rouge. Third of all, the old-fashioned romance story set in the exotic Australian Outback at the start of World War II (movie genre, check! location, check! time setting, check!) all combine to guarantee I was going to love this movie regardless of any other factors. Add to all of that a WONDERFUL script, gorgeous cinematography, and a very satisfying ending (which is my personal bugaboo anyway), and this movie is darned near perfection. I can't stop watching it. Over and over and over.

Sigh. A great big contented sigh.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

concerts in the park

We've been attending a few outdoor concerts this summer. The boys just love these, and it's a fun event for the family, even if the bands that play aren't exactly headlining events. The park in our town where this is held is very small and cute and historic. And we have to drive right past the best ice cream shop around in order to get there. VERY convenient!

The boys love spreading out a blanket to hang out on and listen to the music.

They also love running around the park in their bare feet, wrestling and cavorting like....well, like kids on summer vacation.

Inevitably, J gets inspired by the music and starts doing some stretching. He's yet to actually break into dance at one of these events, but I guess he feels the need to get all warmed up just in case an obvious dancing opportunity presents itself.

He's pretty limber.

Um. Yeah. Ok.

(This is one of the reasons his dance teachers are so ga-ga over him.)

There are no words....just a lot of laughs!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Zoo Boy's summer

I've been getting a lot of questions about Zoo Boy -- folks are curious as to what The Boy has been doing while J has been so absorbed with the musical and dance camp.

Other than perfecting his one-eyebrow-raised expression (as seen here), he has had a pretty fun Boy-centric time during dance camp going to places that his brother no longer has much interest in, such as playgrounds and children's museums. He's also spent a lot of time at the library, and eating lunch out at the local diner (one of his very favorite things to do). During the weeks of Oliver! he helped out quite a bit, running lines with J every day, singing the 2nd part of duets for him, and painting set pieces as needed.

However, mostly he's been doing this. A lot of nothing. Which is exactly as it should be when you're 7. He's having the classic "Huck Finn" type summer, running barefoot and wild, doing whatever he feels inspired to do. He and Joy (one of our Collies) have become real good friends this summer. And he's developed a sense of independence that he's not had up until now. Prior to this summer he needed to be with somebody else to feel comfortable. Now he's happy striking out on his own, enjoying his own company, discovering the freedom of doing things his own way. Again, exactly what you should be doing when you're 7.

Meanwhile, he's also been working on OT goals and small motor skills, as usual. We've kept up our therapy schedule for the summer, and he continues to make strides with that. I've also had him working a bit on coin recognition and counting skills, after having discovered that he didn't know the difference between the coins (and it was bothering him, so he wanted help with it).

He discovered a series of Scooby Doo chapter books at the library and has been working his way through those at rest time. Every several days we go back to exchange them for some he hasn't read yet. He'll be through them all by the end of the summer.

Here he is decoding a secret message. There's been a lovely natural blend of imaginative play and contracted/concentrated play from him this summer. It's cool to see him be totally absorbed in a project for a period of time, then watch him transition seamlessly to something expansive like jumping around the house pretending he's a ninja warrior.

One thing we've fallen behind on during the past two weeks is handwriting -- he's not had any handwriting practice at all while J was in dance camp, because I knew that he would be majorly resistant to doing anything associated with "school work" while J was off having fun (and honestly, I don't blame him!). It may have been a mistake, he tends to forget how to make certain letters without regular practice, but I guess we'll see what happens when we sit down to it today!

And of course, we've gone to the lake every day after dance camp (when the weather has been agreeable, which has been the vast majority of the time). That darned beach closes in just a couple of week, it's hard to imagine that the summer is that close to being over....

We're set to start back to our full school rhythms the day after labor day. In the meantime, we've got our summer rhythms to keep us grounded, and a lot of socialization time planned with friends that we just haven't seemed to be able to find time to see this summer. And The Map Man has another week of vacation to take the week before we start back up again, which for us will be just one great big week full of nothing before we pull up our bootstraps and get cracking again!

Quick computer update: it's touch and go. Some days I don't seem to have much trouble. Some days I do. It seems the hotter and more humid the day, the more troublesome it is. I'm limping along with it as best as I can for now. But if I suddenly disappear for an extended period, you know why.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

dance camp

J spent 6 hours a day for the past two weeks in dance camp, or, as he would refer to it, heaven. This is his old instructor's new school, and he was very excited to be back working with her again, along with a few kids he already knew from his old school, and a few new kids that he just met. The camp was for dancers ages 10 and up, but it was a better fit for J than the younger kids' camp, so I'm glad we went with the older group, even though it meant he was the "little guy".

The first week was a group of younger kids, average age seemed to be about 12. They had a blast, did a bunch of classes, and worked on the National Dance Day dance (which you saw in my last post). The second week was a much older group, most of them having been assistant instructors at the old school, average age about 15. Because this group was so advanced, they did a lot of choreography this past week, which was a whole new experience for J. Both of the videos in this post are dances that they choreographed together as a group (and that I managed to snag by sneaking in early before pickup).

J had a wonderful time, and is now facing some major decisions in regards to his fall schedule. What will he take at his new dance school (the one that specializes in ballet)? What will he take at the school he had camp at? (More variety of classes, some of which he can't get at his new school.) What about his new school's production of The Nutcracker? What about chorus?

He was in tears yesterday at the thought of having to make these choices. I told him that he's still got a couple of weeks before he needs to decide. This morning I sat down with him and a blank weekly schedule, on which I filled in the things that I am requiring that he does this fall(participation in the Monday Homeschool Classes, OT, morning schoolwork here at home, and Spanish class). I then helped him pencil in all the possibilities for classes and activities that he's expressed an interest in doing. Since everything did fit into the schedule, and since I know that he won't over-schedule himself as he also values having free time, I told him that he can choose to do all of them, none of them, or any number of them that he wants. And then I left it with him to ponder over the next two weeks, at which point we'll sit down again and sort it all out.

Meanwhile, for my own amusement and education, I signed myself up for an adult Jazz/Hip-Hop class on Wednesday nights. Anyone out there want to join me?? I'm bound to make you look really, really good....