Friday, September 25, 2015

Math Club and Magna Carta

This time last year, as brand new homeschoolers, our days were pretty quiet.  We did our work at home and then went to some classes where I dropped the kids off and then found a quiet coffee shop nearby to read.

Fast forward a year and I'm turning down play date requests left and right (we have real schoolwork to do, people!), the kids are in way too many classes and activities, and my "time off" is almost always hanging out with multiple other moms, chatting and swapping information and ideas.  In other words, our community has greatly expanded.

After Wayfinders (their role-play, sword fighting class) in Central Park on Tuesday, one of my mom-friends said, "Ella and Holden are coming over for Math Club, right?"  I ignored the fact that we are already completely overscheduled and have no time for any additional activities and said, "Of course!"  Math Club is a group of their friends who meet across the street from Central Park on Tuesday afternoons to play fun math games and enter a monthly competition.  How could I say no?

At first Ella was less than thrilled.  She's actually pretty good at math but has never enjoyed it.  I hoped that this might be the link to making math fun for her.  I kind of sprung it on the kids.  At first I said we were just going over to our friend's house for a play date.  And there might be math games there...  But after an hour and a half both kids begged to come back next week.  Their first competition is in November.

I've also hit the jackpot with Holden's math curriculum this year.  Recommended by a mom who is also a math tutor, I ordered Beast Academy which is an entire math curriculum written as a comic book!  It's genius!  And it's Common Core aligned, if that matters to you.

He loved it so much he read the entire book (a quarter of the school year's worth of work) in one sitting.  Now I'm making him go back and do the accompanying practice book.  

In addition he's also taken to an online math curriculum that has lots of bells and whistles and prizes to be won.  A boring old text book just isn't going to work for him.

We returned to this week's Wednesday Homeschool Recess in Central Park.  Again we showed up to see a couple dozen of their friends playing in the park.

Building fairy houses

Last Thanksgiving when we were in Washington DC, we got to see one of only four remaining copies of the Magna Carta - the actual 800 year-old document.  At the time I told the kids that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Well...less than a year later we got to see a second copy, and this one is 80 years older than the first one we saw!  They aren't going to take me seriously anymore when I say things like that.


The copy is at the New York Historical Society for only a week, on tour for its 800th birthday.  Also on display were drafts of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and Thomas Paine's Common Sense pamphlet.  I had the kids watch a Brain Pop video (awesome animated educational children's videos on any subject or topic you can think of) before we went to refresh their memories on the importance of the Magna Carta.  When we walked into the room I said, "Wow, there's also a draft of the Constitution here!" to which Holden replied, "Well, that's because the Founding Fathers based the Constitution on the Magna Carta."  All heads in the room swiveled to look at the nerdy eight year-old.

We're trying to spend the rest of the week and weekend as close to home as possible.  Between the Papal visit and a concert in Central Park tomorrow featuring Beyonce, Pearl Jam, and Coldplay, our city is basically on lockdown.  Street are closed off, thousands of police are wandering the streets and subways, barricades everywhere.  Oh, that's right.  Ella and Holden both have soccer games in Central Park this weekend...lucky us.

Monday, September 21, 2015

From the Met to Montauk

We had our second Zoo School on Friday.  The kids explored habitats and environments and got to touch much less gross animals this time.


And because the weather is still incredible here, we enjoyed a gorgeous sunset and dinner on the roof of our friends' apartment building.

This weekend was the kick-off for soccer season all across America, as evidenced by the dozens of photos of adorable kids in soccer uniforms throughout my Facebook feed.  Here's my adorable contribution:

They both had a great time on their new teams and Kevin and I enjoyed hanging out in Central Park on a beautiful weekend, cheering from the sidelines.

On Saturday night we had our old friends Katharine and Paul over to our new home for dinner.  Since I had spent the day cleaning the apartment I thought it was a good time to take some photos.  We're hoping to start doing some home exchanges while we travel so I needed some good pictures to set up our home exchange site.

Holden's room


Dining Room

Ella's Room

Open floor plan kitchen/living/dining room

We're still so happy to be in this new, light-filled space although it doesn't quite feel like us yet.  All of the furniture is just cheap IKEA stuff we bought quickly when we first moved here and thought we were only staying a couple years.  Now I keep envisioning our beautiful furniture and artwork that we have in storage back in California all over the apartment.  Someday...

On Sunday after Ella's soccer game (they won!), we had to say goodbye to Kevin who took off for a conference in Montauk.  The kids and I spent the afternoon at The Met at a launch party for their new (very awesome) website MetKids.  If you have kids, check it out.

Going inside a Jackson Pollock painting using an Oculus.
We found another room we had never been in before!  That's a real Roman chariot from the 6th century.
Making flip books in the Oceania room.
I was feeling a little bad for Kevin having to miss out on the cool party at the museum until he sent me this picture from his hotel room.

It's a tough life, Kevin.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Forty-Four Feels Fine

It was a great birthday week.  Thank you for all of the birthday wishes from near and far.

We just made it to the last day of the Members Preview of the new Picasso Sculptures exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art on Sunday.  The exhibit opened to the general public on Monday so Sunday was the last day we could see it without the crowds (which are expected to be big - this exhibit has been hyped around here).

We did the audio tour, as usual, which really helps to keep the kids engaged.  What we all loved about this exhibit is how accessible Picasso makes sculpture to the kids.  We heard lots of, "I could do that with recycled materials at home!" and "Mom, save the cardboard boxes from Amazon, I want to make a cow."  Picasso was never trained in sculpting so his work doesn't follow any rules or conventions of sculpting.  I think the kids liked that.

We had a week filled with lots of friends.  Our apartment was officially "warmed" this weekend with dinner parties on both Friday and Saturday nights with different friends.  We have another planned this coming Saturday as well.  We're finally back to our old California ways, entertaining at home every weekend.  We love it and it's so much more fun for the kids than meeting up with friends at a restaurant.

We also saw a lot of old and met a lot of new homeschool friends this week with their classes in full swing.  Wayfinders (sword fighting/role playing) started in Central Park this week which is by far the highlight of Ella and Holden's week.  Some old friends returned and lots of new friends started.  And I love it because all of the moms hang out on picnic blankets and trade war stories.  There were even birthday donuts for me :)

We enjoyed the gorgeous weather in the afternoons at our nearby Morningside Park.  Yes, this is really Harlem.

And we joined in a local "Homeschool Recess" that has been going on for years on Wednesdays in the north end of Central Park.  As we walked up to the playground the kids scanned the park and didn't recognize anyone.  They suggested we just go home.  I suggested we try to make new friends.  Two hours later I couldn't drag them away.

About two dozen homeschoolers in the area meet every Wednesday afternoon here to play.  And there were almost as many moms, dads, tutors - all exchanging information and offering support.  It's quite a change for us from a year ago.

Luckily, Ella had her first fashion design and sewing class that evening, so I was finally able to get them to leave the playground and get on the subway.  When we got off the elevator and saw the perfectly pink space with a giant runway down the middle of it, I thought she might explode with excitement.  Ever since moving to New York she's been very conscious and experimental with her dress.  And she's always loved sewing and creating things from fabric.  So I think she's in her element here.

Meanwhile, Holden and I walked around the corner to the Main Public Library which is more like a museum, housed in a gigantic Beaux Arts building with Patience and Fortitude (the two lion statues) keeping watch out front.

In the Children's section they currently have a small exhibit of items that belonged to the author of Mary Poppins, P. L. Travers, including her actual umbrella which was the inspiration for Mary Poppins' flying one.

The weather was too nice to stay inside for long so we wandered outside to Bryant Park and found the games area - ten or so tables with a a large cart filled with board games - and played a rousing round of Scrabble.  Right in the middle of downtown Manhattan in the middle of a work day.


There's nothing you can't do in New York City.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Zoo School

Our good moods from our weekend in nature carried us through the week.

It turns out the best day of the entire year to go to the Museum of Natural History (and likely any museum) is the first day of school.  We had the place to ourselves on Wednesday as all of the New York City public school kids returned to classes.  After our work was done at home the kids had the idea to head down and see the new documentary there on ocean life and do some sketching.

Several of their classes started this week such as fine arts and creative writing (originally planned to be graphic noveling but the kids decided at the last minute to switch, which I am thrilled with).  That meant seeing friends they hadn't seen all summer, which really made them happy campers.

You can't tell from this photo, but there is a jazz trio serenading us.

I also got to reconnect with homeschool mom-friends and meet a few new ones this week.  I had an especially nice picnic lunch with a few moms, all of whom are homeschooling boys, and got some really great advice and tips.  I've already ordered a couple new math curricula to try with Holden, one of which is completely based in comic book fashion, with the math lessons involving beasts having to do problem solving.  I'm most looking forward to checking that one out because I think it will be right up Holden's alley.

All of the classes we take and field trips we go on are each arranged by a parent who takes it upon themselves to organize such a thing.  I have pulled together a class or two in the past (at Writopia, their writing school), but nothing as big as the one that started on Friday.  I reached out to the Central Park Zoo last May and asked if I could organize a series of classes at the zoo for homeschoolers.  Yesterday was the first of three classes and was focused on the tropical rain forest.  I had 35 kids sign up, all 8 to 10 years-old.  We're calling it Zoo School.

The kids all had such a great time and even I learned a lot about tropical rain forests and the creatures who live there.  There was some classroom time, some group activities, and then a tour through their tropical zone.

Next week will focus on habitats and environments, and then the third Friday will be a "polar expedition".

The weather is finally starting to feel like beautiful early fall, my favorite time of year here.  After Zoo School we didn't want to leave Central Park so the kids spent the entire afternoon playing, climbing trees, eating ice cream and dawdling through the park.

 I *heart* NY.