Thursday, June 30, 2011

NYS Paperwork Done & Delivered...

Today I turned in my last paperwork for the 2010-11 school year, along with our Letter of Intent for next year. Now I have a few weeks before I have to wrap my brain around writing Mikro's new Individual Home Instruction Plan... Guess what I will *not* be thinking about over the holiday weekend...

So far I haven't overscheduled us, but there's still time, LOL. We'll definitely be doing the 4th of July festivities at Van Cortlandt Manor. I like hearing the Declaration of Independence read, and in these days of challenges to our rights, I think it is more important than ever to go listen.

What's up in the air are other Historic Hudson Valley events (Arrr, wish they were included in our membership... tickets are little hard to justify right now...) and a fun looking event at the NY Hall of Science... And fireworks... And... We'll see. Maybe we'll just have a picnic by our beautiful river and relax.

Back to the Beach

Mikro was in the water before Kev and I had time to set up the beach chairs. He's a happy little fish. We have swim lessons at the end of July to look forward to, and a long summer of peaceful, quiet beach days. Put me near water and I am content. Mikro definitely inheritted the river loving gene from his mama.

He has announced that when he's a teenager, he wants to be a lifeguard. I'm using that to try to inspire him to really work on his strokes (he's a powerful but sloppy swimmer) this summer... And he's already pitching in and helping the lifeguards clean up at the end of the day...

We had some animal excitement the first day there. A gosling went over the dam, into the fiercely churning white water. It was fine, and was soon reunited with its parents. We also caught sight of a black crowned night heron, standing on the shore and watching the geese drama.

All's well that ends well...

Quarterly Report and Annual Assessment: NY Homeschool Paperwork

Generally: Mikro is progressing in an outstanding manner in all subject matter.

We have had instruction in all the following areas, as per Section 100.10 of the Regulations of the New York State Commissioner of Education and Mikro’s Individual Home Instruction Plan (IHIP): Reading, Writing, Spelling, Language Arts, Math, History, Geography, Science, Health, Physical Education, Music, Visual Arts, Patriotism and Citizenship, Fire Safety and Prevention, and Traffic, Bicycle and General Safety. Mikro had no absences from instruction this quarter, and has exceeded the required hours of instruction (225). Highlights for the Quarter include:

Reading/Language Arts:

Mikro reads fluently and well above grade level. He is reading increasingly more complex material, including books up to 350 pages long. He reads for fun and enjoyment without prompting, and also enjoys audio books and Tumblebooks through the various library websites. His reading comprehension is wonderful, and he can narrate back a good summary of what he reads. He enjoys making up rich and detailed stories, poems, riddles and jokes. Mikro is learning to type his own stories using a text editor. We are working on grammar and spelling using a variety of workbooks and online lessons from Time4Learning, Lesson Pathways, BrainPOP, and other online resources.

We have discussed the elements of a story including protagonist, antagonist, plot, exposition, theme, conflict, climax, resolution, setting, etc. We continue to practice narration and have discussed the elements of a book report. Mikro read How to Write a Book Report by Cecilia Minden. He has signed up to participate in the Croton Free Library’s Summer Reading Game, and has already reported to the children’s librarian on a book for Week 1. He continues to work on improving his handwriting and fine motor skills.

Mikro attended a poetry workshop at Poets House entitled Sea Tales with Richard Lewis , wherein he saw a performance, acted out various scenes, wrote a song and constructed an assemblage. He also attended the festivities for the New York Pubic Library’s 100th anniversary in the Schwarzman Building, which included a tour of the normally closed stacks.

Some of the books read independently by Mikro (in addition to those listed by subject matter in other categories below) include:

Operation Redwood by S. Terrell French (368 pgs.); Einstein’s Underpants and How They Saved the World by Anthony McGowan (320 pgs); George's Secret Key to the Universe by Stephen Hawking and Lucy Hawking (336 pgs); George’s Cosmic Treasure Hunt by Stephen Hawking and Lucy Hawking (320 pgs); The Wooden Mile by Chris Mould (176 pgs); The Icy Hand by Chris Mould (176 pgs); George’s Marvellous Medicine, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, The Enormous Crocodile, The Magic Finger and The Fantastic Mr. Fox, all by Roald Dahl; A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle; Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman; LEGO Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary by Simon Beecroft; Around the World on Eighty Legs by Amy Gibson; The Ghost of Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelson; Hannah Is My Name by Belle Chang; Frank Was a Monster Who Wanted to Dance by Keith Graves; Helping Out is Cool by Ellen Feinman Moss; How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long; Ma, I’m a Farmer by Michael Martchenko; The Night I Followed the Dog, by Nina Laden; Something Good by Robert Munsch; The Summer the Town Bit Back by Ellen Feinman; The Three Silly Billies by Andrea Wayne von Koenigslow; When Pigasso Met Mootise by Nina Laden; Louise, the Adventures of a Chicken by Kate DiCamillo, Mahalia Mouse Goes to College by John Lithgow, Pecorino’s First Concert by Alan Nadison, Pop’s Bridge by Eve Bunting; Sally Dog Little by Bill Richardson; Sammy Spider’s First Shabbat by Sylvia Ross; Champion: The Story of Muhammed Ali by Jim Haskins; Dinosaur Cove books including: Catching the Velociraptor, March of the Ankylosaurus, Charge of the Triceratops, and Attack of the Tyrannosaurus, all by Rex Stone.

Read Alouds: The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein.


We are working on single digit multiplication, two and three digit addition with regrouping, and two digit subtraction with and without regrouping, rounding off and measurement, using real life math, books, workbooks, games, drawings, original word problems and manipulatives. Mikro is also learning his math facts and strategies online using Dreambox Math (which makes math a game using interactive tools and manipulatives like the number line, tens blocks, hundreds charts, multiplication tables, etc.), IXL Math (more traditional worksheet like problems) (games, worksheets, interactive manipulatives), (math games),, Brain Pop and Time4Learning ; various workbooks, including 5 Minute Addition, Logic Safari I, Singapore Primary Math 1B, and Second Grade Scholar. We have introduced the concept of division. Mikro is also enjoying the Mathtacular! series of DVDs.

Mikro has been measuring and weighing his baby bearded dragon and we have been keeping a notebook with this data. He is also using measurements in real life applications such as cooking and building projects, and enjoyed learning about area and perimeter while “assisting” his father in installing a paving stone patio.

Books include:

Math for Martians: Galaxy Getaway by Jane Tassie; Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci by Joseph D’Agnese; Grandfather Tang’s Story by Ann Tompert; Once Upon a Dime by Nancy Kelly Allen; Place Value: The Next Stage by Claire Piddock; Regrouping by Claire Piddock; Multiplication by Ann Becker; Wild Fibonacci: Nature’s Secret Code Revealed by Joy N. Hulme; Pythagoras and the Ratios: A Math Adventure by Julie Ellis; The Easy Book of Multiplication by David C. Whitney.

Games include: Dreambox Math and math dice.


We have discussed the scientific method; electricity; computers; light and optics; Newton’s Laws of Motion; velocity, acceleration, speed, and terminal velocity; rocketry; the history of the space program; geology and the rock cycle (including via materials from The JASON Project online); biomes (seashore; wetlands; ponds and lakes); ecosystems, habitat and food chains; classification of animals; arthropods; arachnids; insects; annelids; cnidarians; reptiles; crustaceans; echinoderms; cephalopods; mollusks; fish; cells, cell structures, mitosis, prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, heredity, DNA and RNA, bioethics; the human body; migration; hibernation; evolution; symbiosis and parasitism; climate change, ecology and conservation. Mikro remains fascinated by evolution, and he has been doing the middle school and high school level modules of Explorations in Time, a web based science curriculum for paleontology and geologic time from U.C. Berkeley. Mikro uses the BrainPOP online science program extensively, as well as

Classes: Mikro took a 5 week series of science classes at the Science Museum of Long Island in Plandome, NY. Topics included: ecology and terrarium building; marine biology (including performing a squid dissection) ; botany and betta fish behavior. Mikro took a 4 week series of classes with NYC’s Urban Park Rangers at Belvedere Caste in Central Park. Topics included ornithology and geology.


A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Aston and Sylvia Long;. Rice by Sylvia A. Johnson; Robotics by Helena Domaine; A Wizard From the Start: The Incredible Boyhood and Amazing Inventions of Thomas Edison by Don Brown; Switch On, Switch Off by Melvin Berger; Scorpions by Jason Cooper; Ants and Other Social Insects by Cecilia Venn; DK Eyewitness: Robot by Roger Bridgman; Enjoy Your Cells by Fran Balkwill and Mic Rolph; Carolina’s Story by Donna Rathmell; Redwoods by Jason Chin; Deadly Ants by Seymour Simon; Life Cycle of a Frog by Angela Royston; Megatooth by Patrick O’Brien; Evolution Revolution by Robert M.L. Winston; Life in a Pond in a Meadow by Sally Morgan; Science Factory: Light and Sight by Jon Richards; Bouncing and Bending Light (partial) by Steve Tomecek; Maia: A Dinosaur Grows Up by John R. Horner and James Gorman; The Mayfly by Ross E. Hutchins; The First Book of Electricity by Sam and Beryl Epstein; Salamander Rain by Krisitn Joy Pratt-Serafini; Understanding Solar Power by Fiona Reynoldson; Understanding Wind Power by Polly Goodman.

Magazines: Mikro enjoys reading Ranger Rick, National Geographic Kids, Kids Discover and Zoobooks.

Videos/Internet: Mikro watches educational programming on PBS, the History Channel, National Geographic Channel, Science Channel, NASA TV, Planet Green and Animal Planet. He also watches Bill Nye the Science Guy and other scientific programming online. He regularly watches educational programming such as NOVA, Nature, NASA TV, Wild Kingdom, Mythbusters, and How It’s Made, as well as selected science videos on YouTube. He continues to enjoy his extensive collection of science and nature DVDs.

Of particular interest this quarter were The Human Spark, Monster Bug Wars, Mythbusters, How the Universe Works, and Nature: Birds of Paradise. He also enjoyed Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Inside Birding series of videos on identifying birds using color, pattern, size, shape, behavior and habitat.

He is becoming a big fan of science fiction, and particularly enjoys Primeval, Star Trek and Dr. Who, all of which have prompted discussions of scientific topics such as paleontology, cloning, lasers and particle beams, communications technology, the theoretical feasibility of time travel, SETI and the search for extraterrestrial life.

Field trips: American Museum of Natural History: World’s Largest Dinosaurs special exhibit; Dinosaurs at the ROC (featuring the AMNH’s Dino Lab on Wheels); EPA Ocean Survey Vessel Bold ship’s tour; collecting, observing and releasing insects; many nature walks where Mikro has observed such things as birds building nests, courtship behaviors; parent birds feeding their young; American Kestrels hunting; redtailed hawks hunting rodents and consuming them, insect and wind pollination of plants; snapping turtles in the local wetlands.

Mikro attended the Cool Jobs presentation at the World Science Festival, featuring panelists from the fields of mechanical engineering, entomology, robotics and evolutionary biology. He also attended the World Science Festival Street Fair, including programs and performances such as Central Park Zoo’s Wildlife Theater; The Franklin Institute; live animal encounters with Philadelphia Zoo, robotics displays and hands-on exhibits from New York City/ New Jersey FIRST Robotics; and Rutgers Dynamic Physics Demos.

We also enjoyed the animal related programming at Van Cortlandt Manor’s Animals and Acrobats event, including educational programs by Flight of the Raptor, the Wolf Conservation Society and 2 By 2 Zoo; and educational exhibits at the Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival, including microscopic observation of aquatic life such as mosquito larvae, microscopic observation of aquatic macroinvertebrates such as caddis fly and dobson’s fly larvae and crayfish, and observing live specimens such as american eels, water scorpions, crayfish, flounder, white perch, striped bass, salamanders, red efts, wood frogs, etc.

Projects: Mikro and his dad are exploring electricity with an Arduino microcontroller kit, servo motors, LEDs, capacitors, resistors, and other electrical components, which are controlled via open source programming language. They have built several projects wherein Mikro constructed simple electrical circuits, and assisted with writing the sketches (programs). He built a motor driven propeller racer from a kit, and several other science kit projects such as an electronic snapping alligator, a periscope, and a wind gauge. He has been learning to measure distance using a laser rangefinder. He and his dad are discussing robotics design and are involved in the preliminary stages of designing and building a simple robot arm. He is also raising a baby bearded dragon and keeping a notebook of data and observations. We participated in the Project Feeder Watch citizen science project, collecting and reporting data through Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Mikro helps us to maintain a Certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat. He has participated in live web seminars through the Supercharge Science web site and via The JASON Project.

History, Geography & Patriotism and Citizenship:

During this quarter we have continued our study of Ancient History, focusing primarily on Ancient Japan, but also including India and China. We have used Susan Wise Bauer's The Story of the World as a spine, and have gone through sections on the Indus River, China and Japan, as well as maps, videos, nonfiction and fiction concerning the cultures studied.

We have had discussions about dynasties, feudalism, samurai and shoguns, isolationism, world religions including Shinto, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Hinduism, and Christianity, the Silk Road and trade, architecture, inventions and scientific discoveries in Ancient Japan and India and the festivals, myths, folktales and legends of Ancient China, Japan and India. We have also discussed British colonialism in India, M. Gandhi and the Indian independence struggle.

In American History/New York History/Patriotism and Citizenship, we have discussed the Constitution, the function of governments, the Bill of Rights, rights and responsibilities of citizens, current events implicating constitutional issues such as the 4th amendment concerns with body scanners at airports and 4th and 5th amendment concerns relating to the proposed New York State Assembly and Senate bills permitting CPS to enter homes without a warrant and criminalizing resistance to the same, which were altered after legislators received negative feedback from constituents; immigration, slavery, racism, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, the Greensboro lunch counter sit-ins, civil disobedience, peaceful protest and the Civil Rights movement, natural resources, scarcity, supply and demand, peace treaties, nationalism, socialism, communism, fascism, the First and Second Word Wars, the history and traditions of various holidays such as Easter, Passover, Earth Day, Children’s Day/Boy’s Day (Japan); Mothers Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day and Fathers Day.

Mikro attended the annual Children’s Festival at the National Museum of the American Indian and enjoyed the crafts and activities, and especially the amazing performance by the Git-Hoan Singers and Dancers. He finished up his class in Native American Architecture at the Center for Architecture in New York City, and participated in constructing a model village and giving a presentation about it to staff from the Center. He also went on a field trip with our homeschool group to the Jewish Museum (which was focused on the Archaeology Zone) and independently explored the rest of the museum, learning a great deal about the ancient Israelites.


America: The Algonquian by Rita and Mary D’Apice; The Huron by Craig A. Doherty and Katherine M. Doherty; If You Lived With the Iroquois by Ellen Levine; The Rough Faced Girl by Rafe Martin; How Chipmunk Got His Stripes by Joseph Bruchac and James Bruchac ; Raven: A Trickster Tale From the Pacific Northwest by Gerald McDermott.

China/Japan/India: A Carp for Kimiko by Virginia Kroll; Cooking the Japanese Way by Reiko Weston; Hachiko Waits by Leslea Newman; Japanese Traditions: Rice Cakes, Cherry Blossoms and Matsuri by Setsu Broderick; Magic Animals of Japan by Davis Pratt and Elsa Kula; Maneki Neko: The Tale of the Beckoning Cat by Susan Lendroth; Welcome to My Country: Japan by Harinah Whyte; We Live in Japan by Kazuhide Kawamata; The Bee and the Dream : A Japanese Tale, adapted by Jan Freeman Long; The Boy Who Drew Cats by David Johnson; Kamishibai Man by Allen Say; Grass Sandals: The Travels of Basho by Dawnine Spivak; Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys by Bob Raczka; Samurai by Paul Collins; Grandfather Mountain: Stories of Gods and Heroes from Many Cultures retold by Burleigh Muten; The Long Silk Strand by Laura E. Williams; K is for Kabuki by Gloria Whelan; Hokusai: The Old Man Mad About Drawing: A Tale of Hokusai by Fracois Place; Skysweeper by Phillis Gershator; Lily’s Garden of India by Jeremy Smith; Nadia’s Hands by Karen English; Mama’s Saris by Pooja Makhijani.

Understanding Japan; 1776.

Internet: National Geographic Kids (Japan.); YouTube: Mikrohas really enjoyed a series of history music videos put together by two high school history teachers and shared on YouTube, on subjects including: Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, King Tut, Greek Philosophers, Nefertiti, Mummification, Pompeii, Ancient Rome, the Dynasties of Ancient China, Martin Luther, the Battle of Agincourt, etc. as well as videos concerning holidays, festivals and foods of India and Japan.


Mikro learned about melody, rhythm, pitch, harmony, and musical scales using Brain Pop’s online music lessons; he is learning to appreciate and identify classical pieces using the Beethoven’s Wig series of CDs. Mikro attended Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival at Croton Point Park, where he enjoyed performances by Pete Seeger and the Rivertown Kids, Arlo Guthrie, Tom Chapin, Joanne Shenandoah, Sarah Lee & Johnny, all the Clearwater Generations performers, and the reunion of Sloop Singers at Circle of Song (where he got a big high five from Sarah Underhill for his enthusiastic participation), as well as story telling by Eshu Bumpus, Kay Olan and Margo Thunderbird.

Books: When Bob Met Woody by Gary Golio.


Mikro is participating in a weekly internet art challenge called Illustration Friday. He continues to practice drawing prehistoric and imaginary creatures, and has come to love sculpting clay and playdough. He has studied architecture, cameras and photography using Brainpop online, and has been given a digital camera to experiment with. He attended a five week course on Native American Architecture at the Center for Architecture in New York City, and has constructed models of a wigwam and a longhouse. We have attended dramatic and musical performances including: Greek Mythology with the Traveling Lantern Theater Company at Croton Free Library. He has enjoyed making monoprints, designing a skyscraper (exterior only), making fish prints, making a carp windsock for Japan’s Boy’s Day festival, ceramic sculpture, sand painting, drawing, watercolors, and oil pastels.

Books include: Buildings In Disguise: Architecture that Looks Like Animals, Food and Other Things by Joan Marie Arbogast; The Empire State Building by Lisa Bullard; Gargoyles, Girders and Glass Houses: Magnificent Master Builders by Bo Zaunders; I Can Be An Architect by Susan Clinton; Van Gogh: Art for Children by Ernest Raboff; Audubon: Painter of Birds in the Wild Frontier by Jennifer Armstrong; When Pigasso Met Mootise by Nina Laden; Skyscraper by Lynn Curlee; Frank O. Gehry: Outside in by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan; How They Were Built by David J. Brown (partial).

Physical Education:

Hiking, walking, calisthenics, swimming, learning to ride a scooter, foam sword fights, and basketball informally with neighborhood friends.


We have discussed nutrition, safety issues related to food allergies, maintaining adequate hydration, signs of heat stroke, sun safety, why drugs, alcohol and smoking are unhealthy, and the perils of drunk driving.

Traffic, bicycle and general safety:

We have continued discussing the importance of looking both ways before crossing the street, obeying traffic signals, watching cars for signals, safe and appropriate behavior on public transportation, seatbelts, carseats, bike safety, strangers, bullies, staying where mom and dad can see you, what to do if lost or separated from family, how to avoid getting lost in the first place, and how to ask for help.

Fire Safety and Prevention:

We continue to discuss what to do in a fire emergency, including formulating a family escape plan, stop drop & roll, get low and go, exiting the house immediately and not returning, trying to wake family members, but leaving if unsuccessful, telling firefighters if family and pets are still inside, using a cell phone or going to a neighbor to call 911, and waiting at a designated location for family members.


As set forth above, and in our three prior quarterly reports, which are hereby incorporated by reference herein, Mikro has made outstanding progress this year and is reading well above grade level. He has independently finished books that are over 350 pages long. He will be participating in the Croton Library’s Summer Reading Program. He has a firm grasp on the concept of multiplication, and is working on learning his math facts. He can use a multiplication table to derive answers to problems. He is fascinated by science, and performs in that subject at several years above grade level. He enjoys history, joins in political discussions, is proficient at reading a map, and can identify the continents and countries we have studied on a map or globe. He has made outstanding academic progress in all subject areas, in which he performs at or above grade level, and his handwriting is slowly improving. He is a voracious reader and a curious and self-motivated learner who loves science, nature, history and mythology.

Dated: June 30, 2011
Signed: Me & Kev

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How to Have Fun in the Summer, as Demonstrated by Mikro

Come along with us to a beautiful little park along the Hudson River and watch Mikro remind all us grownups how to have fun!

Tree climbing...

Goofing around on the rocks, picnicking, playing with a foam air propelled rocket:

Learning about flight and aerodynamics... Playing with a styrofoam glider, that is...

Making silly faces, and making sure dad doesn't take a nap:

Fighting with foam swords:

Watching the boats and the wildlife:

Goofing with frisbees and found objects: Maybe it's Mikroiana Jones? Old mooring rope makes a cool pretend bullwhip...

And what good's a day on the river bank if you don't get wet?

Of course, if you jump into the Hudson River in your clothes, you might have to ride home wrapped up in a towel...