Thursday, February 26, 2009

Takes my breath away

The flowers are coming up here in Israel, especially after the last week's downpours. It is the harbinger of spring on its way. The sight of the green and flowering hills across from my home never ceases to move me and make my hear skip a beat . How wonderful it is to behold all this beauty. We can't overlook these moments of pure bliss, problems not withstanding. Even though everyone's existance is not always smooth sailing, life is still full of these bits of joy and sweetness, a reminder of G-d's love for us. Thanks you to Chaya Rivka Chimes and A7 picture archive for this stunning picture.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Which flavor will it be?

There are many different approaches to learning and each family will have to decide for themselves which approach they want to adopt. The choice will depend on the interests, learning styles, parenting style, time availability and learning needs of a particular family. But here is a standing on one foot guide to some of the options that I think can be adapted to work with Jewish home education and that fit with the Torah ideas about how to educate.

Montessori - based on work of Dr. Maria Montessori where a prepared environment and purposeful and sequential activities are used to allow the children to learn various skills and disciplines. Encourages independent learning and a respectful attitude to peers and environment. The teacher functions more like a facilitator and adviser. There is a lot of individual and interest based work. Dr. Montessori had many interesting and excellent ideas about how children learn and how to teach various subjects. My friend and local montessori expert, Miriam Eri, tells me that Montessori approach is as close as one can come to homeschooling type of a teaching model in a classroom setting.

Classical education- heavily book based, particularly Great Book based, very structured and well rounded approach to education. Relies heavily on the study of language, literature, history and logic. Follows the stages of intellectual development of a child from grammar to logic to rhetoric. It's quite rigorous in nature. The available curriculum for this approach needs to be adapted to jewish needs but the general idea of steady and disciplined learning appropriate to various stages of intellectual development works well with the Torah approach to education.

Charlotte Mason - a sort of toned down and gentler version of classical education, based on teaching good habits, using "living books" to ignite student interest and inspire love of learning, nature study, copywork and dictation, picture study, journaling. This is not too labor intensive in terms of preparation for the parent. It works very well in a family setting with children of various ages, abilities and interests, especially with the younger/ elementary aged children (those are the ones I have right now:) It is easily adaptable for jewish family needs.

Unit Studies - Theme approach to learning a subject or an interdisciplinary way to learn a subject in depth from many different angles. The main idea here is that the more connections one makes in one's mind with a particular subject from various vantage points the better one will know and understand it. This is a very versatile and exciting way to learn especially for people who appreciate a holistic type of thinking. One can also use a subject as a springboard for launching into related studies and ideas across numerous disciplines. The possibilities are really infinite. For example, one can use the weekly Torah portion as the starting point and then include various related math, science, history, music, art and practical projects that are germane to the topics mentioned. One can really do this with any subject.

Unschooling- child led education based on the child's interests. Less formal, using the world as the classroom kind of an approach.

Eclectic- while the purists and the devotees of a particular approach will be scandalized and flabbergasted, for the rest of us mortals using a little bit of everything depending of what works at a particular time and with a particular child is definitely a reasonable way to go
I hope to explore each of these more in depth in the future posts. The beauty of home education is that one can tailor it to individuals' needs. There is so much to learn, explore, teach, discover. One has to relish the process as well as the end results. Bon Voyage!!!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Teachable moments

Education in a home environment happens naturally.
Every parent is cast in a role of a teacher. A normal day in a regular home is chuck full of teachable moments. It doesn't have to be hard or labor intensive either. When we answer our children's questions, teach new skills, practice old skills, explain things as we do something we would be doing anyhow, it's amazing how many different things one can teach. In a very short period of time too. One could be cooking dinner and discussing colors, shapes, gardening, cooking techniques, money management, frugality, nutrtion, health, creative cooking, related scientific concepts, etymology of food names, cooking terms, etc. etc. etc. You get the picture. And this could take place no matter what it is you are doing. Ah, the possibilities. Everyday is a journey of discovery and growth. So go ahead and enjoy all the teachable moments that you've been blessed with.

Jewish martial arts or something old under the sun

One certainly learns something new everyday. Here is an interesting something I learned on Lazer Beams the other day. Apparently, there is an ancient form of Jewish martial arts known as Abir. It's really quite fascinating on many levels - physical, spiritual and historical. This is one interesting way to get your excercise :) So check out Abir Warrior Arts

Thursday, February 19, 2009

For the mysticly inclined

Here is a beautiful song with a lot of kabbalistic meaning that I don't pretend to know. It has something to do with G-d having mercy on the jewish people when we fight our battles. In my mind this tune is associated with Hashem watching over the jewish people at times of war, especially with the most recent Gaza operation. But we say these words at various places in davening and particularly in Kabbalas Shabbos -welcoming the Shabbos Queen. I like the tune and Shabbos is coming. Enjoy!!!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The art of adaptation

As Torah jews we are careful about what we bring inside ourselves both physically and spiritually. We are careful about how we behave and what we will and won't look at or listen to. Hashem wants us to live our lives with tmimus and yashrus - simple, pure and straight. It's good for children to learn this from a young age, that not everything is appropriate. That a jewish person has certain sensibilities that are just not present in the secular world. They have to learn that when there is a conflict between secular knowledge and Torah Law, that Torah law comes first. Hashem knows what's best for us and what we need to stay spiritually healthy. He gave us the Torah so we would know what choices to make and how to act when we are confronted with different scenarios. It is the parents' responsibility to determine which materials are suitable for their children to learn. Being that most of the resources used for secular studies are not created specifically for religious jews, short of writing everything oneself, the materials will have to be adapted. Therefore I would recommend that the parents read and look through anything they plan to give to their children before actually presenting it for their children's use. Often even the most innocent books could have illustrations that are not appropriate for a jewish child. Sometimes it is the content itself that needs to be adapted. With little children the parent might need to alter or skip over certain parts of a book. There is a lot of wisdom out there in the world but it should never come before morality. As our sages say chachma b'goim taamin, torah b'goim al taamin - if you hear there is wisdom among the nations believe it but if you hear there is torah among the nations don't believe it. There is a temendous amount of information and wisdom and ways to learn things out there but one just has to keep in mind that all of it has to be filtered through the prism of Torah.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A friendly reminder

Here is a beautiful song by Yonatan Razel and Yaakov Shwekey to remind us that ours is not the first generation facing all sorts of threats and that ultimately Hashem always saves the Jewish people. Purim is coming and Pesach is not so far away. With both holidays, Hashem saved us from the bad guys in a most spectacular way. It's no different today. We have to look forward to our salvation , it could come in a blink of an eye.

Monday, February 16, 2009

More on jewish learning

Torah learning is very fundamental to the life of a jew. We have to set a personal example for our children by making torah learning and self improvement very central to our family life. Our children have to see us as embodiments of the values we want to convey to them. They have to see us in action. So here is a quite large collection of links on Parshas HaShavua, etc. - the weekly Torah portion there is enough material here for divrei torah for a nice long time:)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

What kind of a creature is a homeschooling parent?

Here is an interesting article on the topic of homeschooling. As I mentioned previously homeschooling is a term that means different things to different people. It doesn't have to be an all or nothing propositon. Some people teach their childen exclusively at home, some teach in addition to regular school program, some use vacations and weekends to teach their children, some send children to school for only part of the regular program and teach other parts themselves. The point being that home learning of any flavor ( I hope to discuss these in further posts, G-d willing) is based on the needs of the particular child/children at any given time. This approach to education whether in or out of the traditional classroom is not a modern fad but is based on the statement in Mishlei that if one wants one's teachings to stick one should "train the child according to his way". You can read more great articles on education, motherhood, marriage and more on (thanks Chana Weisberg for this link).

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Our children, our selves

We are our children's role models. Children naturally look up to their parents, Hashem put it into their makeup. Therefore a great portion of parenting entails that we parents work on ourselves. Therefore a lot of education of our children depends on our self-education as parents. Not in an academic sense alone but in a moral sense. We have to model in the best possible way what we want our children to become. It behooves us to listen to our own admonishments to our kids. Don't fight with your brother! Stop being jealous! If you would be nicer to him than he'll be nicer to you. Speak nicely !!! This is not a competition!!! How do we ask properly? And so on and on and on. So many things we say a hundred times a day are a lesson to us as well. Every one of the above statements could be applied on a national level as well. So much of parenting is really a midos (character) workshop for us, parents. Perhaps one reason why often our children are both similiar to and different from ourselves is so we could work on different facets of our own personalities. Rabbi Jonathan Rietti in his excellent lectures speaks among other things about raising ourselves not just our children. Shavua Tov U'Mevorach - a good and blessed week to all!!!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

For the sheer joy of it

Judaism has a long tradition of learning and teaching. In fact the very word Torah means teaching. And what is life but a series of lessons to be learned and lived. We must impart to our children that Torah and Mitzvos are privileges and not a burden (learned from Rabbi Benyamin Yudin). We have to be cognizant of endless opportunities for everyday holiness. And we must feel joy and enthusiasm in our religious observance. Life is often full of challenges but we must not forget to see all the beautiful things that are there too. Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis in one of her books recommends that we sing with our children. Shabbos is an especially good time for that. Music has a special ability to carry one to great heights beyond the here and now. Shabbos is also the space in time that takes us out of the reality we normally inhabit. So Shabbos and music are natural partners in that respect. There is a wonderful book I bought recently called Shabbos in My Soul by Rabbi Boruch Leff on how to make Shabbos more meaningful, it's a real treasure - both the Shabbos and the book :) Shabat shalom to all and here is another great nigun from Shlomo Katz to get us into the proper frame of mind.

Great story tapes for children

There is a series of great children's tapes put out by the Temple Institute here in Israel. They tell stories centered around the jewish holidays set in the times when we had a Beis Hamikdash. Titles include the Magnificent Kohen, The Sukkah of Peace, The Baker's Apprentice, The Golden Menorah among others. The dramatization is cute and informative and the music is very good. It really makes you feel like you were there and yearn for better days. Meanwhile, here is a beautiful song by Shlomo Katz on the subject of the future Beis Hamikdash. Enjoy!!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

That's right, what the Rabbi said...

Here is an excellent article by Rabbi Boruch Rubanowitz on the parent's central role in their child's education. Couldn't have said it better myself:)

An inspirational and moving song

Here is a very moving and inspirational song while we are on the subject of jewish education and eternity

Giving credit where credit is due

Thank you to Yifat Benarroch for the beautiful picture in the header of the blog. There are more stunning pictures of Israel on Arutz 7 in their pictures department.

Keeping your eye on the goal

What is the goal of education? What are we trying to accomplish? In hebrew the word for education is chinuch which literally translated means dedication. We dedicate our children's education to the Higher goals, set out by G-d in His Torah. The point of jewish education is to raise good Jews, mentschen, holy and pure people. The goal is to help our children actualize their potential, build on their strengths and help them overcome their weaknesses. The goal is to build character. It is to imbue them with our timeless values. The goal is not to produce geniuses but to raise human beings who love, value and actively pursue learning, each in accordance with his talents and capabilities. It is to help them push forward when necessary and to let go and allow room to grow when necessary. It means appreciating the children we have not the ones we wish we had ( to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld). Home education is uniquely suited to achieve these goals.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Say, what is the meaning of this?

My name is Regina Grinberg and I live in Israel with my husband and 4 children ranging in age from 6.5 to 1. In this blog I would like to present the ideas, thoughts and resources on the subject of Jewish education in accordance with Torah true Judaism. I am passionate about education in general but especially about the parents' role in the education of their own children. In our times when so many things are outsourced, I am a firm believer that our children's education shouldn't be. More so I believe that it's the parents privilege and perhaps even an obligation to educate their children. Schools can provide the skills but the parents provide the moral upbringing and the soul of the education. I've been researching this for a number of years and was surprised to find that in the mountains of the resources available, there is a derth of materials available online and otherwise, geared specifically and appropriate for the religious jewish public when it comes to teaching general subjects. So I decided to try and fill the gap by sharing my findings in the hope that they might be useful and make home education accessible to all parents. To me home education doesn't necessarily equal homeschooling but home learning, where children and parents learn and grow together in the context of the family with or without formal schooling. I hope to expound on this more later in greater detail. Education is a very all encompassing pursuit and I hope you will join me in this trully exhilarating and important journey.