Sunday, May 29, 2011

no comment

Hmm.....for some reason I've been unable to comment on anyone else's Blogger blog for several days now. Not sure if it's a Blogger glitchy thing, or something funky with my stupid comptuer (entirely possible).

But anyway, for anyone who reads here and normally gets comments from me on their blog, it's not because I'm not reading you! I just can't seem to get anything to post for me.

Very aggravating....

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

the "big" show

This past weekend was the big Ballet School dance show, "Premiere Performances". Both performances went off without a hitch (or close enough, anyway), and all the numbers were just wonderful. J danced in two Modern numbers during the first act -- here he is after coming off stage on Saturday night, all smiles and looking forward to ballet in the second act.

During stage rehearsal on Friday night, J is in the foreground, during his first Modern number. I had hoped to get a bunch of photos that night, even tho they weren't in costume, but the ding dang camera did it's usual "I can't handle this lighting" thing and everything wound up pretty much looking like this (or even blurrier). Ah well!

The Modern cast, taking bows at the end of the first act during one of the performances. I was busy helping backstage, so The Map Man took this on his phone. I find it perpetually annoying that his phone takes better photos than my camera. Sigh. J is 4th from the right side of this picture, in the orange shirt.

Dressed and ready to go on stage for the 2nd Act on Saturday night. J had his own private dressing room, which was kind of fun, and kind of frustrating for him because he was constantly in fear of missing entrances since he couldn't see what anyone else was doing. Of course, I wasn't about to let him miss an entrance! But I can see his point, and I'll try to make other arrangements for him next show. Maybe if he has to dress alone (likely as the only young male dancer in the school), I can at least move him to the hallway outside the girl's dressing room so he can see when they are lining up for the various numbers.

The big wedding scene from The Sleeping Beauty Ballet, during stage rehearsal on Friday night. J is all the way on the right, standing with the other Courtiers while the Prince and Princess dance. I'm sure it looked beautiful with costumes the following two days. It mostly just looked like a bunch of bodies from back stage. At least we'll get a DVD of the performance so I can see the full impact of the show!

After coming off stage on Sunday afternoon, J sighed, "Ah, now for a long, relaxing summer!" (Although this week has been anything but relaxing so's the last week of regular dance classes, and he's dancing every night, while I help pack away costumes and props. But NEXT week we can do a little relaxing....)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

carrying -- the math sort

For the past two weeks, I've been working on introducing the concept of carrying in addition to the boys. We started our work last week by reading the Enki Math story "Tricky Mischief Save the Day." The story is not about carrying per se, but is about our friends in the Land of Jewel having to add together large numbers of jewels, so it set the stage for some discovery of adding larger numbers. This is J's drawing of the castle, with the King of Jewel and the King of Other visiting up in the throne room while the King of Other's spies try to steal Tricky Mischief's counting secret.

Zoo Boy's drawing, of the King of Other in one frame, with his bag of jewels, and the spies in the other frame, sneaking up on the door where Tricky is counting her jewels.

The kids were very excited to read yet another installment about the kingdom and characters they've become fond of.

After working thoroughly with the story last week (and taking an entire day off to watch a ewe have a lamb -- the advantages of homeschooling!), this week I introduced the concept of carrying with our counting boxes from our previous place value work. The boys (particularly Zoo Boy) were super happy to see the counting boxes again, and I set up the activity so that our 1, 419 jewels needed to be added to the King of Other's 897 jewels. We combined the boxes, and discovered that there were enough jewels in the wooden boxes to make up a new china box, and there were enough china boxes to make up a new silver box, and there were enough silver boxes to make up a new gold box. As we "carried" (physically) each new box to the top of the column, the kids got the physical experience of carrying in addition. Then we counted up the new total.

Then we sat down and wrote out the equation. Zoo Boy was SO excited to "carry" the ones to their new column. It's amazing how quickly he was able to apply the newly discovered concept to paper output -- without me saying a word or guiding him at all!

J was a bit slower figuring it out -- he was already naturally "carrying" in his head, and it took him a few minutes to put together what we did with what he was already doing. But once he reconciled it in his own mind, he was equally excited as his brother.

Then I left them with the boxes to play. For about an hour I could hear them out there creating different equations and explaining the carrying process to each other.

Today I pulled out the base 10 blocks (singles, rods of 10, flats of 100, and cubes of 1000s) and we repeated the activity (with different numbers). I had prepared cardstock in coordinating colors to represent the boxes they were already familiar with in our previous work. The kids quickly transferred their knew knowledge to the new manipulatives, and were able to immediately produce written output for the equations.

Then, of course, I left them with the cubes, and addition continued for another hour.

Tomorrow we'll play a few games with the base 10 blocks and carrying, and then I'll either go on to borrowing (in subtraction) next week, or I may just let it sit while we work on our next cultural unit and touch on borrowing at the end of the year. Waiting is probably better, but that means I'll have to write a new story as a tie in. We'll see how energetic I'm feeling! Either way, I definitely want to introduce it before the year's end so they can work on their practice with it over the summer.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


J had his Jazz and Tap recitals this past weekend. He shot up the bad guys in the tap number "Wild Wild West" and scared away all the ghosts in the very enthusiastically received "Ghost Busters" jazz number. (It really was ridiculously cute, and my little ham-bone danced his roles convincingly.) Great show! Excellent choreography, and good preparation by the dancers. Even the little-little kids did well with their numbers.

The finale -- can't even fit all the kids in the photo. He's over there on the right somewhere, good luck picking him out, I'm not even sure I can:

One more show to go -- the big one, the Ballet School's Premiere Performances, this coming weekend. If we survive the insane rehearsal schedule this week (and the shows this weekend) we can collapse in a heap for a few weeks before summer dance starts.

Monday, May 9, 2011

growing up, and concerts - week 31

Last week's big event was the Youth Chorus concerts. Here's J singing his solo, "Lean on Me," which the final night got some audience participation (clapping along, which surprised and delighted him) and a lot of cheers. (For the record, I did NOT start the clapping! It started somewhere at the back of the room and caught on pretty quick.) They had two nights of performances, plus two dress rehearsals during the week, so our entire week was pretty much devoted to this show.

It's fairly likely he'll have to drop chorus next year, unless he decides to drop a couple of dance classes instead. As I had to drag him out of ballet classes and rehearsals early to get him to chorus, it became obvious even to him that he's perhaps a bit over-booked. He'll miss it, though, he loves to sing, especially in front of an audience.

Here's the Junior Chorus (the older kids) performing, J is on the near end, dead center of the group in this photo with the blue shirt on. My camera did it's usual lousy job capturing any images from the concert, and the shots of the entire chorus (younger kids join in for the 2nd half of the performance) were so ridiculously bad, I won't bother posting them.

With all the rehearsal and performance mayhem over the next few weeks, I'm keeping our school schedule on the light side. This past week we read the Usborne book "What's Happening To Me?" This is my kid's first formal introduction to puberty, sex, and reproduction. I approached it as I have any other learning unit, read them a portion of the book each day for 4 days. There are half a dozen or so titles on the topic that are appropriate for kids this age, but I liked this one the best -- I thought it had the best balance of straight-forward information and light-hearted cartoons. Other books I read were either too heavy on the info or too silly. However, I would not have just handed them this book to read on their own, as I wanted to be able to interject here and there and involve some discussion, let the kids comment what they wanted/needed to, etc. I thought the book was a bit lacking in WHY you'd want to be with another person that way, so it was nice to be able to add in comments about love and what attraction is really all about. And Zoo Boy needed a boiled down simple "This is how it happens" summary to really understand the concept, so I was glad to be able to give that to him to help him make sense of the more detailed info.

It was a really successful learning unit, the boys were both very open in asking questions and commenting on what's going on with them in relation to the information. Their favorite part was at the end of the week when I turned the book over to them to review as much as they'd like -- they immediately dashed off to their room and poured over the information and drawings again, discussing various interesting items from the book. And now I feel like they are armed with the info they need to understand what will be happening to their bodies in the next few years. I have a couple of other books for them as they mature as well, but for now I think we've covered what we need to cover.

Last week we also began our final Monday Homeschool Classes session for the year. Zoo Boy is taking a stop-action movie class, which he is very excited about, and a martial arts class which he is absolutely in love with. Both boys are taking a fun knight-based math class called "Sir Cumference," based on a series of stories by the same name. And J is taking a fun engineering exploration class based on NASA projects, as well as the "History of My Hometown" class I'm teaching. My class is research-based and his homework has been mostly with Internet searches on the computer, which has thrilled him.

And of course we had our usual complement of therapies and music lessons. And all our usual handwriting and math practice work. No rest for the weary!

Next on the horizon, the dance recital for the school where J takes Jazz and Tap, this coming weekend. (Here's my little cowpoke, in the brown vest and chaps, amongst the cowgirls, tapping away.) And extra rehearsals for the show for his other dance school, which is the following weekend. Oy.

Oh, and we celebrated Mother's Day yesterday -- the kids each bought me a small gift with their own money, and we had a little cake. We had dinner at my favorite burger joint -- Five Guys. I know, not too classy, but within our budget and TASTY!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

this and that from week 30

Just because I wasn't around for much of it doesn't mean that it didn't count as a school week! Plenty of learning and practice work went on, believe me.

We started the week with an egg hunt. It's funny, because Easter isn't a holiday for us, but it is for my and The Map Man's families,
so we stick with holding a half-hearted egg hunt on Easter Sunday every year. Zoo Boy sort of connected the dots on who exactly is hiding the eggs this year, but fell short of actually admitting that he'd figured it out. Probably he's afraid that it would mean the end of the tradition, so he kept his mouth shut before he said anything too revealing. J, meanwhile, still lives in the happy world where giant rabbits hide eggs in impossible places....

The Map Man took the boys to the "Mindbender Mansion" exhibit at the CT Science Center. It's basically a huge mystery to solve, where you solve individual puzzled to attain clues. In the end you feed your completed answer card into a computer and generate a certificate -- here's J's (top) and Zoo Boy's certificates. The Map Man got a certificate too, and I'd
publish a photo of it as well, but am afraid it might scare small children....

I left plenty of practice work at home for the kids to work on while I was gone. This piece of handwriting work (done by J) is a stanza from the poem "The Weaving of the Tartan" by Alice Macdonell.

My intention had been to weave an actual Tartan during this block, but it never came about due to circumstances beyond my control. Oh well, we've done plenty of weaving and wool work in the past, and will do much more in the future as well, I just thought it would have been a nice tie-in to the Scottish culture. But we've been in Scotland quite long enough, it's nigh time to move on.

Finally I was home for good, and we welcomed 65 new baby chicks onto the farm. The vast majority of these little gals are Red Stars, but we've got a handful of Silkie chicks also. Silkies are known to be good setters, and I'm hoping to employ them to help me hatch out Call Duck eggs next year.

And one more new arrival. The pooch on the right is Mae, an 8 month old Border Collie. (She's playing with our Lab, Kiri.) Mae was owned by an elderly couple who found her high energy level difficult to live with, and ultimately decided that she would be better off somewhere else. She's here for me to work with a bit and (supposedly) find her a permanent home. Of course, now that she's here, she might very well wind up staying on more than just a temporary basis....

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

no, I haven't dropped off the planet

I was merely occupied helping my mom with recovery from her knee replacement surgery. So I abandoned my family for several days (who went along just fine without me as it turns out, although the kids didn't do anything with new content last week, just enough practice work to count the days as school days).

Will be back to blogging by the weekend, no doubt! Right now we're busy snuggling with 65 new chicks (!) and running around to various special rehearsals for J's many upcoming performances. Hard to believe that in just 3 weeks, he'll be done with pretty much everything!