Yay Maia! It sounds like things are really starting to manifest! Huzzah!
When we lived in Boston our heat (not included) ended up being a few hundred dollars a month in the cold months... we wore a lot of sweaters, kept the thermostat around 58-60, and had a slightly drafty older ground floor of a triple decker 1200 sq/ft two bedroom apartment. I think a newer structure or a more efficient heating system would have kept the cost down, and don't forget that if you're in a row house or middle of a triple decker (not uncommon Boston area housing options) then heating costs are a lot lower... the fewer exposed walls you have, the cozier you stay! When I lived my starving grad school existance in NY the heat was included, but I almost never turned it on because my neighbor's had their heat so high my studio never got chilly. The rental agency or real estate agent should be able to get you the average monthly costs for any unit you look at so make sure to ask.
Aeress- the school districts here have families in a bit of a bind. You can use the contract office (and comply with their "more than state reg" guidelines) or you can go directly to the school... but if you do, then you can't submit a parental assessment at the end of the year. Since the regulations state that the person/people/service that does the annual review must be approved by the superintendent, unless you've used the contact office and their narrative format guidelines, the district simply doesn't approve the annual assessment if it's done by a parent. Meaning you either have to use a national test, a peer review board, or state certified teacher for the annual assessment. Which is what is happening in the neighboring district. Although the super there used to accept parental assessment, they have now decided that they will not accept that... and since the regulations don't actually SAY it's ok for a parent to do the annual assessment (just that you can have a peer review board, certified teacher, or "other person chosen by the parent and approved by the superintendent") the families in that district are in a real bind. Traditionally parents could do the review, and in the districts that contract with the homeschool coordination office a parental review is still acceptable if it follows their prefered format, the question comes down to whether the appeals process will side with the super or with tradition since the regulations don't specify one way or the other. It's a mess! NYHEN just got involved, so we'll see where it goes and what outside voices suggest...
altars- I love the pictures! I'm inspired to get my personal (upstairs) altar in shape, but there is just so much else that needs to be done upstairs. I look at the wreckage that is our sleep loft and it just overwhelms me. Maybe though if I start with the dresser top altar (a classic location!) the calm/organization/peace will spread out from there? I'm entering week 32 and I think the nesting hormones are starting to kick in... my to-do list goes beyond "hopeful" and into "crazy"!
We're reading Charlotte's Web (it's the first book in the curriculum we're using) and the girls love it... yesterday we spent much of the day creating a variety of CW inspired critters... we made a felt board and a felt pig, spider, spider web, trough and slops, a rat, a goose, and a barn door. We used pipe cleaners (did you know they sell GIANT pipe cleaners? like, two feet long and an inch or so around?) to make spiders and then dd1 attached some to helium balloons and let them fly around the house (one of Charlotte's cousins is a balloon spider)... and I made a monstrosity that is a pipe cleaner pig. Dd2 likes it, but honestly it's a bit scary! And now they want to make clay critters as well. My MIL came over for a few hours yesterday and the girls even put on a play of their version of CW. I was really suprised at just how much they're digging this story. And today at the Red BookShelf they asked for and eventually found another EB White book (trumpet of the swan). (red bookshelf is a local organization that has book collection points and then these red bookcases set out around town... in the grocery stores, the dss office, the science center, at the hospital, etc... where those books are given away for free. one book per child per visit)
Ok...back to dinner I go. Today has been nutsy, but the kids have eaten so much watermelon I don't think they're seriously in need of a big dinner. Or, given how late it is, an on time one either! lol
Hope everyone has a rockin' week!