Season's Greetings, everyone

Have a peaceful, beautiful Christmas, Chanukkah, Kwanzaa or (I'm late, I know) Winter Solstice.



I saw this check cashing ginberbread store and really liked it. Especially as it has a "Casa de Cambio" sign. It's so, like, west 14th Street.

And this one is actually fun: Pimp My Nutcracker.

Ah yes, twisty-turny holiday things are fun. And I saw a menorah made out of, erm, pharmacy products, but I am afraid it is too distasteful to share with the parental folk here.

What is A reading for pleasure?

A is reading this book, but only because I bought it for him and he has read everything else from the last book stock-up.


What's fair?

Listening to irate commuters on t.v. and reading Homeschooling in New York City's post makes me wonder, what is really fair?

The MTA supposedly has millions of dollars in surplus, yet MTA workers have been without a contract for over two years. Is it fair to allow those workers to go without a decent contract?

MTA workers make more money than many New Yorkers with bona fide Bachelor's degrees from bona fide universities, though. Is it fair that they make so much money without having attained higher education?

Yet MTA workers sometimes get killed in the subways in which they work. Could I ever work in a subway tunnel? Erm, no.

Some people say a fully-automated subway system looms in the near-future. Would that be fair to the real passengers who need real workers to look out for them when they get caught in subway doors?

The strike is breaking down our City's economy. Is that fair to the businesses and mom-and-pop shops that make New York City so great?

I don't have the answers to these questions.

But I do suggest that we should all go French. Yes, French. Or French-Canadian. Yes, if you must strike, just strike for a few hours. Say, from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m., no strike. Mkay? That will sufficiently ruin a commuter's day, and we will get your message loud and clear.

We will not be able to go dining or clubbing at night, but we'll be able to get to work during the day, and businesses won't shut down.

We might even do some holiday shopping during our lunch breaks.

But there will be enough bottlenecks on the road, you union folk will really have caused some chaos. Good, no?

Mr. Toussaint, you more than anyone should know about how to strike, French-style. LaMai begs you to go French.

It's just a thought.


Et tu, Red Cross?

Even in the middle of a transit strike, New Yorkers worry about what things like free coffee mean for local businesses.

from Gawker:

"As promised, walkers and cyclists are invited to the Borough Hall “way station” which will serve as a gateway to the thousands of Brooklynites who are expected to walk or cycle to work over the Brooklyn Bridge. Borough Hall will be open to those who need a break, a bathroom, or a hot cup of tea or coffee.

The Red Cross is at the end of the Williamsburg bridge offering cookies and coffee in some sort of disaster relief “we’ll be there” cups. The Dunkin Donuts people down the street — not happy."

And are homeschoolers bothered by the strike at all? Erm, actually, yes. We had to cancel two classes today. If we choose to walk, it will take us more than two hours to get the classes, and back. It is 23°F outside. No, thank you.


For L at MySchola...

and anyone else who loves SNL and is itching to see the Chronicles of Narnia, there is this clip. And oh yeah, you may not come to New York City and eat our Magnolia Bakery cupcakes, unless you plan to stay for good. There really is a limit on how many you can buy, and they are that addictive.

she's back.

If you have HBO (or HBO on Demand) you can watch this film.

In a similar vein, as you probably already know, U2's Bono, and Bill and Melinda Gates got this accolade.

And Zeitgeist!!! This post is over at Concierge Services' site...


Becky at Farm School let us know that Darwin has a posse. I couldn't help but share this news with everyone.

: D


Why not?

Once upon a time, an acquaintance of mine who is a Harvard alum whose dad is a physician, included a "Paypal" icon on her blog asking for money from people to help "support" her (she had $19,000 available credit on her credit card and didn't even have a dependent, either). Some stupid fool actually sent her some bucks.

I thought including some items on the "Wishlist" section of this blog might, I don't know, get someone's attention. If you're considering the Nespresso machine, I'd be happy to send you my financials. And the Nespresso machine would keep this blog in business.

Going to nap now. I love showing out-of-towners this City, but I am E-X-H-A-U-S-T-E-D. Going to bed at 8:52 p.m. is unprecedented in my world.


Run. Don't Walk.

So visitors from out of town (Miami, actually) are staying in my apartment. For three days. I really don't care to get into the details of who they are, or how they might possibly be related to me. But without fail, whenever my son is under the care of the Primary Adult Visitor (PAV), he either misses a meal like dinner or gets injured out of pure negligence.

Exhibit A: "Mom, PAV walked me across the entire strip of the beach for four hours straight and I am sunburned and I can't see and my skin is peeling off and I am crying and I think I might need to go to an emergency room now but PAV thinks I am joking." A loves the beach, and is doctor-phobic.

Exhibit B: A sleepover at 9 p.m., I get a call. "Mom, PAV didn't offer me dinner." Oh yeah? "And I'm hungry. She gave us breakfast cereal." This happened not once, but twice. PAV confirmed to me that she fed Lucky Charms to the kids for dinner.

So here they are, in New York City, and PAV has asked to include my son in their sight-seeing activities today. I gave him cash to buy a meal (I've learned from past experience, right?). And he's sufficiently bundled-up against our mild winter weather.

I called PAV an hour ago.

Hi. Do you have a plan for your outing this evening? Any idea when you'll get back?
"Um, I dunno."
I see. Well, I'd really like A to be home by 9 p.m. [Because I am afraid that he will get frostbite/hungry/stolen by a stranger/or some other ill might befall him due to your negligence if he's not here by then] Will that work for you?
"Um, I guess. I dunno. Is it okay if I call you?


Then A called me. "Mom, we haven't found a place to eat," he reported back. I beg your pardon? "Do you know where we should eat? PAV has no idea where we should eat." In NEW YORK CITY???

It's been 10 hours since they left my apartment. Ten hours. They have since not eaten. A. Thing. This is after having gone to Chinatown, and all the way to Lower Manhattan, climbing on a Circle Line boat, going to Lady Liberty, and walking around the museum on Ellis Island, and now hanging out in Times Square ("It's so pretty here!" reported PAV to me).

I would like to add, there are young children in PAV's care.

Darling? Can you please do me a favor? Get to the closest subway station. And come home. Thank you. See you soon.


Book meme

I was tagged for a book meme, and couldn't figure out which Diane had sent it to me. I am an idiot. So, Diane, at Nobody Knows Anything, please accept my apologies while I work on it....

OK. Here are 15 book thingys off the top of my head...

1. I like to smell very old books. The kind with tatty spines and yellowish-brown pages. Especially in libraries with collections that pre-date 1910.

2. I hate when the pages in old books disintegrate in my hands, though. I feel like a book murderer.

3. Alexander's first book was...? Ducky something? His experience with books has been rather odd. He first read books in French because he attended a private, total immersion French school. The stories in the books were mostly about the Gauls conquering everything. Then, when it was time for 4th Grade, we switched to that public elementary school with the French national curriculum. He had a teacher who told him he was not allowed to read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, because Harry Potter was "too advanced." He read Harry Potter anyway.

4. When Alexander arrived here in New York, his 5th Grade teacher thought he had reading comprehension difficulties. Because he was new to New York, Alexander was rather quiet. Very zipper-lipped in class. "Does he speak English?" she asked me once. Oh, yes, I replied. The teacher didn't believe me. She put him in the "dummy" reading group; the books were 3rd grade level. "Can you believe she's making me read kiddish books?" he protested. That same year, when we decided to homeschool, Alexander read the remaining Harry Potter books that had been written to date by J.K. Rowling, and then began reading J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series. He finished all the books within six months, with smatterings of other reads in-between.

5. I read chick lit books. I am sorry. I can't help it. It's a weakness. That, and those Godiva raspberry chocolate bars that you get from Barnes and Noble at the cash register after buying the chick lit book.

6. When my 4th grade teacher asked me to read The Hobbit, I told her I would. Then two weeks later, I told her I read it. I lied.

7. When I attended boarding school, we read and discussed literature at what I believed to be a maddeningly s-l-o-w pace. It was like an Ecole de Cuisine: we had to know what story we were getting, from where it came, and then savor every word and nuance contained therein. I, however, came from the french fries school of the American public school system. On returning to the States, I learned that I was sort of an expert on any given literature that I had studied at that slow-cooking school. I try to approach literature studies in the same fashion with Alexander.

8. I am writing a book now. I can't even hint what it's about, lest I piss off all my friends, family, acquaintances, my hairdresser, and the Dunkin Donuts cashier from Bangladesh.

9. We have books in four languages on the shelf. Of those languages, we can read in three fairly well. The fourth would be Hebrew, a language in which we suck potatoes.

10. Do not disturb the subway book reader unless you know what's good for you. The subway trains of New York are great places to scout new book titles to read. What are people reading? One season, everyone had burgundy-red Dan Brown books (The Da Vinci Code). Movie deal, I thought. On any given car on a subway train, between 20-50% of the passengers are engrossed in a book. Hardcover and softcover. I learned that hardcover books, while bulkier, are better for train reading. The pages don't as flip easily while you standing up and holding on to something else. Today I found a book left behind on a subway platform. It is about cattle herding.

11. I read how-to books as voraciously as I do chick lit books.

12. Once at a Barnes and Noble, I had to place an order for a book title and the staffer thought I was the person who penned an entire shelf of books in the store. "Are those your books? OH MY GOD!!!" She was disappointed to learn I was not the writer.

13. I am jealous of my friends who write books and do book signings regularly at big chain retail bookstores, yet who possess the writing skills of African bushpigs.

14. This book is still a classic. For the love of Zeus Almighty and Richard Scarry, publish the UNABRIDGED version, please.

15. I cannot borrow a library book to save my life. LaMai has a tendency of not returning books. They are that delicious.

I tag Calletta, Heidi, and Becky (if you haven't already been tagged).

On a lighter note...

Here's a snarky knitting blog I learned about from Poppins' blog.


I do indulge in the occasional rant, but this time I will fully get on the soapbox.

Last week, I learned of the dog and cat fur trade exported from China, presented by Heather Mills McCartney. I don't agree with everything Heather McCartney does, such as stomping into J Lo's offices with camera crews in tow, but I admire her courage (she lost her lower leg in a motorcycle accident, championed numerous causes, and later married Paul McCartney) and find it necessary to share this information. This is, after all, a blog about education.

I know, I know, if you feel like wearing fur, it's your business, not mine. But LaMai was truly shocked at the repulsiveness of the things Heather had to share with the American audience last week. The methods that the dog and cat fur trade use to market their goods are particularly insidious. Currently, we have a ban in the U.S. on imports of dog and cat fur, but the Chinese fur trade finds ways around our laws. Chinese exporters may label this fur as "fun fur" or "Asian Lynx" when you are actually buying domestic cat or "Asian Jackal" when you are buying German Shepherd pup fur. Note that only the skins are used; not the meat. Our vanity perpetuates this business, not our necessity.

We have options like Poltartec Fleece and other man-made materials that as good or better at keeping us warm. Vintage fur is another option one might consider if one really must wear fur. If you buy outerwear made in China, re-consider your purchase if there appears to be "fun fur" on the trim. It might be a dog or cat.

I can't even believe I am actually writing this.

If you hated this post, send me one of these for Christmas/Chanukkah. I'll get the message.


Options, options...

So, now that I am a member of NYCHEA, we have a LOT of homeschooling options.

Did I know that -
There is a playwriting class taught by a professional writer?
A genetics class taught by a genetics professor?
A law class taught by an attorney from a very well-known and highly-respected legal organization?
A theater group that is putting on a Shakespeare comedy in a couple of weeks?
Soccer club every week, with insurance paid by the group?
Ski club (five trips, folks, for a low, low price to include ski lift, rental, and lessons)?
Every type of homeschooler belongs to this group, including Jews in Brooklyn, WASPs in Manhattan, and hispanics from the Bronx?

No, I didn't know that. Where on earth was I?

Oh yeah. I was avoiding the nutty homeschooling zealots before I found this group.

And tonight, I have several options for my Wednesday night activity. Among them, I can knit with my knitting circle, or attend a book signing (how on earth did I become cool enough to get on that guy's e-mail list? Like, he doesn't suppress the e-mail addys at all. Some famous names there. Holy, moly).

Which is why, if I haven't said it before, I love New York.

Okay, maybe the weather could use a little help from Miami...


Così fan tutte

Does your homeschooling group have 501(c)3 status? Do your high school-aged students want to put on La Bohème, or a musical, or a play, maybe for fundraising purposes...and the major obstacle is finding the right costumes? Guess what. You can have costumes from actual Broadway shows. Check out the tdf site for costuming information. And yes, they have a sliding scale, and Mail Order service.

Woo-hoo. Let the shows begin.



LaMai has finally joined NYCHEA - The New York City Home Educators' Alliance. I was a little cautious about joining a homeschooling group; I've encountered some real weirdos who homeschool and purport themselves to be educational "experts." But NYCHEA is a diverse group, the members are friendly and knowledgeable, and despite the webmaster's obsession with use of the preposition vis-a-vis in every single e-mail that I get from him, I think that I like NYCHEA.

And, apparently, I am NYCHEA's National Geographic Bee coordinator (although I cannot receive the Bee materials or administer the Bee, as A will be a participant).

I still want to open a school, though. Heh, heh.

P.S., this (straight, if you must know) guy knits some seriously wicked stuff:

I am in awe of his skill. Photo credit to Knitty and Yarnboy.



A tacky bar mitzvah would be this. Please note that LaMai refers to the upcoming bar mitzvah I am grappling with as the "b-m".

I saw this blog and thought it was Poppins standing there in yoga gear and glasses. Do you not see a trend here? Knit and Tonic...Denim Jumper has a Martini Lounge. We certainly know how to live the life, don't we?

I spoke to a male friend about the upcoming b-m festivities and somehow we wound up talking education talk, and he mentioned to me that his son goes to Dalton. For two seconds, I felt sorry that I Alex is a homeschooler. It happens. Particularly as today, we did not meet our daily academic goals. Okay, okay, we read two acts in Hamlet and my kid knows where Micronesia and Machu Picchu are. I shouldn't complain.

Said friend also mentioned an even tackier bar mitzvah than the Beyonce one: someone booked Don Henley and Aerosmith for his kid at the Rainbow Room and the dad wore a tuxedo with diamonds encrusted on the lapel. Tackay, tackay, tackay....

No, I don't really think you need to send a card to Tony Blair, particularly if you do not live in the U.K.

And oh yes, please congratulate Calletta at Forever December. A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, she stumbled onto this blog and decided she'd stick around. She
was pretty bold for hanging out with the homeschooling crowd, particularly as she didn't even have any children. She joined NaNoWriMo with me not once, but twice.

And, in the middle of this last NaNoWriMo, she had a baby. Her first. Give her a holler, will ya?


from Harvard University

Yes, I spoke to the homeschool admissions director at the H-bomb today.

Currently, approximately 70-100 homeschooled students apply for admission to Harvard College. The acceptance rate matches the national average (for Harvard, that is 10%). The admissions director believes that the matriculation rate is about equal to the acceptance rate.

"We treat homeschooled students the same as conventional students," said the AD.

Regarding transcripts: Some people provide transcripts from correspondence schools, some mix & match courses with the public school system, or if the student is otherwise "linked to a system," they include those transcripts. Some work their curriculum entirely on their own, and provide transcripts for those courses.

Harvard is keen to know what is the student taking? "We would like to see syllabi" wherever possible, "not super-detailed, but something that tells us what is being taught" to the student.

Recommendations: Harvard expects recommendations from the student's "guidance counselor" plus two additional recommendations. They can be from research mentors, other academic mentors, or a community college teacher.

Taking classes outside of the homeschool realm: Harvard likes to see student "interaction" with others and "maturity." This AD felt that taking classes outside the homeschool realm, i.e., community college classes, is a "natural progression" for many students. She stressed the importance of students involving themselves in discussion with their peers.

Some students choose to supplement their homeschool education with classes such as their Continuing Education department, which the AD stressed, was not part of Harvard College, but falls under the "umbrella" of Harvard University. Taking courses at the CE school at Harvard does not guarantee the student anything re: Harvard College admissions.

Grades: Harvard looks at four years' worth of secondary studies for admission. "We do not require GPAs or rankings" but rather, they need to know "what is being taught" and require an assessment of the academic rigor of a student. Yes, Matilda, you do not even need a grade or GPA to be accepted by Harvard (but you will need SAT or ACT scores).

SAT and ACT scores: There is no minimum cutoff [LaMai's thinking out loud: yeah, sure]. But the AD did offer their average SAT I score from successful Harvard applicants - it is 700-790. Three SAT IIs are required (same score range). ACT scores range between 30-34.

When to apply: Harvard College does not participate in Early Decision, but like Yale and Stanford, it participates in Early Action. Harvard must be the student's SINGLE CHOICE when applying Early Action.

I asked the AD about admissions portfolios. "Doesn't that work against a student? Don't you have a job to do instead of looking at boring videos and extraneous stuff?" I asked. On the contrary, said the AD. While it is best to include only the materials required by the admissions department, if an applicant feels that his candicacy is better served by including a portfolio, by all means, do it, she said. "If everything else [the regular admissions packet] doesn't fully capture what you are about, we will consider them."

more college stats on the way...

In the meantime, this CNN article is interesting.

In other news, LaMai hit about 42,000 words during NaNoWriMo. Ugh! I feel like a pre-Emmy Susan Lucci. Next year!


from Bowdoin College

Dear Maitresse:

Thanks for your message and for your interest in Bowdoin. We receive a
relatively few number of applications from homeschooled students, but
those we receive are often interesting and exciting.

Please note: Home-schooled applicants and candidates applying from
secondary schools that provide written evaluations rather than grades
are required to submit SAT I and SAT II or ACT test results. SAT II
tests should include Math IC or Math IIC and a science.

Thank you.


Admissions Guy