Friday, November 29, 2013

Alphabet Soup

The background: During our last homeschool conference, Venesa got inspired to abandon our english curriculum midstream and switch to one called Logic of English. The new curriculum suggests teaching cursive before manuscript (print) writing, which meant heading back to square one with our first grader.  Nonetheless, we were still sold on the switch, as (amongst other reasons) the fluidity of cursive letters actually seemed to be more suitable for a six-year-old boy lacking fine motor skills.

The cause: A milestone celebration was in order.  It was a rough start but after a couple of months into the new curriculum, the lowercase cursive letters were a done deal.  

The task: As part of the celebration, Venesa came up with the idea of making cursive letter pancakes.  Something simple to commemorate the occasion.

The detour: Venesa had to get to an early morning hair appointment and passed the baton to daddy with clear instructions: Here's the batter.  Make a few letters, maybe A, B, and C. I'll be back in 45 minutes.

The problem: Daddy is a recovering Type A personality.  Uncompleted tasks are painful, and the alphabet doesn't stop at C.

The result: A whole lot more pancakes than we needed, and the tastiest alphabet song ever sung.  Pass the syrup, please.

Jasmine hits the practice board with cursive g's

J is for Justin knocking his cursive assignment out the park.
Next on the menu: Uppercase.

City Slickers

More pics from our New York trip.  Statue of Liberty. Hotel quiet time. Subway rides. Jalen's Birthday.  Hello Kitty. And a grandma that clearly got lost in the moment.

Monday, November 25, 2013

180 days

In South Carolina, beginning at the age of five and continuing until their 17th birthday, all children are required to attend 180 days of school.  Homeschoolers are no exception. The truth is that counting the number of days of instruction doesn't measure much of anything, as there is no measurable standard as to what "a day of learning" looks like.  What one school may cover in a week, another might cover in a single day.  Yet the two schools would pat themselves on the back just the same once they reach the end of the school year.  With that said, we're pretty content with the pace at which our kids are learning… but that still leaves this artificial hurdle of 180 days.  But that's where the flexibility of homeschool kicks in.

Picture me outside on a warm summer day, trying to unroot dying bushes in front of the house.  The kids see my struggle, drop their bikes and stroll over.  I drop my shovel and let each kid take a turn trying to pull the bush out of the ground.  As they do so, we talk about root systems, how strong they are (the roots, not the kids) and how skinny roots the width of our arms can hold up trees the width of our five bodies combined. And that's when I look up at Venesa, and we both high five… because, hey, that sounds like science class to me. School day!  Oh yeah.  One down, 179 to go.

Two days later, Jasmine wants to know where our mail comes from.  Fast forward through a 10 minute discussion of the United States mail system, a trip to the post office, and a "letter" mailed to the grandparents; and what do you have?  Well, that's social studies if I've ever seen it.  Bam… School day!

Of course, I'm half joking… but only half… because while we don't skimp on our school curriculum we also try to never miss the opportunity of teachable moments; and our recent trip to New York was no exception.  Subway stations, city buses, 9 million people, the Statue of Liberty, and what was once the tallest building in the world? Bam! School day!  It's a beautiful thing.  68 down.  112 to go.  No field trip forms required.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Jinx

Every year, my school has an opening ceremony during which all of the faculty and staff members are introduced to the incoming class of students.  In 2011, during my first year employed at the school, I missed the ceremony because of the death of a family member and the resulting sojourn to Pennsylvania for the funeral.  Fast forward 12 months and I'm thinking, count me in for the opening ceremony because (two years in a row... same weekend...) what are the odds, right? Well, on July 12, 2012, my maternal grandmother passed away.  Yet, I was still pragmatically optimistic.  My thought was, hey... at least school didn't start yet, right? Wrong...  the service date?  One month later. The weekend of (you guessed it) school opening ceremony.  Fast forward. Fast Forward. Fast Forward. And bam... Here we are, weeks before the start of the 2013 school year.  There's no way in the world a third family member can die on the same weekend.  I mean, come on.  What are we, jinxed? Mind you, no one has passed away on my side of the family during any of the months in between.  It's like we wait for the school to start each year.  Or maybe we wait to get through one last summer, I don't know.  But here we are, a full two months away from opening ceremony, and I find myself taking a mental survey of the health status of my entire family in order to figure out which member is most likely to die this year during opening ceremony.  Morbid... I know, but can you blame me?  I mean, every time my phone rang in September, I was like, "Oh My Gosh! Uncle Joey! I knew it would be uncle Joey!.... Come on kids, pack your bags. Uncle Joey's dead." It was a stressful month to be a Reyes.

Well, fast forward just a hair more... two weeks before the ceremony... and not one but both of my parents are now in the hospital due to chronic illnesses that have taken a turn for the worse.  And I'm thinking, this totally can't be real.  September is officially coombs-reyes-i'm-ready-to-die month, and I evidently won't make it to an opening ceremony until my entire family is dead.

Well... the good news is that (after a lengthy hospital stay for my dad) both of my parents checked out of the hospital with a pulse and escaped the wrath of my school's opening ceremony.  As for the ceremony itself, I was able to attend this year (whoo hoo).  However, I have to admit: Sitting in the school gym on uncomfortable folding chairs for 20 minutes while waiting to wave hello to 125 new juniors turned out to be enormously anticlimactic.  It also proved to be no match for my new fall family tradition.  Just a couple of weeks later, my 48 year old cousin Rosalyn lost her improbable (and somewhat sudden) battle to Lou Gehrig's disease.  Obviously we will miss her, and we also enjoyed the subsequent family caravan to New York as we connected with family and old friends to commemorate my cousin's life.  As for opening ceremony, I have to say that despite how mundane it turned out to be, I still found solace in the fact that I didn't miss it for a third consecutive year due to the death of a family member.  Because that would have just been creepy.