Monday, July 27, 2009

Stars in your eyes

Here is a very interesting link to Dr. David P.Stern's website that spans the study of astronomy, earth science and some math. As well as history of science and other great miscellaneous stuff like a book list and ideas on teaching reading.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Yearning for redemption

Reading the news these days gives one plenty of opportunities to yearn for the redemption, may it come speedily and with mercy. Here are a few wonderful articles to illustrate this point one from Reb. Esther Jungreis and one from Ari Goldwag.

Also, here is a fantastic link to 60 lessons on yearning for the geula by Rabbi Pinchas Winston.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The perils of blurry vision

The world our children are growing up in, is different from the one we grew up in. Therefore, we face certain challenges as parents that our parents didn't have to contend with. When I was growing up the lines between adults and children were clearly drawn. It was taken as a given that the adults were in the position of authority and children had to pay heed or face the consequences, whether they agreed with the adult position or not. Today, it is no longer a given. It stems from the Western world attitude that preaches that modern man doesn't owe allegience to anything or anyone - G-d, country, family or a spouse are all passe. Only his own personal definition of morality and ethics, no matter how misguided or perverted determines what is right and what is wrong. This, together with misapplied egalitarianism led to extreme blurring of boundaries between parents and children. This world view engendered a whole stream of child-centered parenting ideologies that effectively handicapped the parents' ability to parent. A parent by the virtue of being a parent has a right to set limits for his child, that he deems to be in the child's best interest, in order for the child to be able to grow into a healthy adult both physically and emotionally. In Judaism these limits are not arbitrary but are set forth by G-d. As is the parents' obligation to educate his child and the child's obligation to respect and fear his parents according to specific guidelines. Judaism advocates G-d centered educational approach led by the parent in accordance with the Torah and the specific child's needs. I am not in favor of unrestrained physical punishment or the child becoming the butt of parental anger. I am talking about normal everyday parenting situations not child abuse. It's impossible for a person to be an effective parent if he is denied the right to tell a child what to do or to stop a child if necessary when red lines have been crossed.
It is also very damaging to the child and leads to all kinds of social and emotional pathologies. In parenting and other situations where a moral stand is required, blurry vision is bound to result in negative and unpleasant outcomes.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

If the shoe fits...

Here are a few interesting shoe related crafting inspirations.

Shoemaking links- and
Shoe painting
Viking shoe project
Moccasin project
Shoemaking poetry

Monday, July 20, 2009

For the education obsessed

I just landed in an education utopia. I think sleep will just have to be abolished( just joking:). Here is a link to a list of "inspiring and innovative blogs for educators"(read parents too)- tons of interesting stuff for the education obsessed individuals. And no Mr. Editor, I have not yet read everything of importance there was to read on education topics.

Of teachers and parents

I've been thinking about the question of what makes a great teacher for a while now. In fact, that question is what started me on my education odyssey in the first place. Here is an interesting article on this subject called "Unlocking the Mysteries of Great Teaching" by Tamim Ansary.
Here are the key points from the article.
"Great teachers ...
make you feel special.
teach you how to learn.
inspire you with their passion.
engage your whole being.
keep you focused.
open you up to new experiences.
have no agenda.
make the complicated simple.
give clear explanations.
show you how everything ties together."
Now substitute the word parent for teacher. Need I say more? Parents are naturally well suited to being great teachers to their children, Hashem made them that way. As a side point, when searching for educational/teaching information online, the sites for teachers, can be also very useful to parents. Today when so much of our children's education has been outsourced, we have to learn to think in terms of this teacher=parent paradigm. Why shouldn't our children answer, "our parents", when asked who were their greatest teachers?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Education at home

I think if more people understood that education at home is not just for homeschoolers, it would greatly improve the state of education in the world. I really can't say this enough. Education at home means learning things with your children in the context of the home and family, it doesn't have to mean that you take your kids out of school. These things don't have to be mutually exclusive. Here is a very worthwhile site with lots of great information on learning and teaching at home as well as many many links to all kinds of great stuff in many subject categories. This site is useful for both home educators and homeschoolers. Not all links are updated but there is still plenty of good info available.

Math play and more

Here is a fantastic K-12 Math resource I just discovered, just amazing. It has games, ideas and just great math advice, plus. Enjoy!!!

Phonics and other reading stuff

Reading skills are fundamental to any sound education program. The first step in inspiring our children to be readers is to be readers ourselves and to read to our children on regular basis. We are not known as the People of the Book for nothing, literacy and books are very important to Jewish education. On a practical level though, here is a link to all kind of phonics and other interesting reading stuff.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Calligraphy, penmanship and other writing stuff

Beautiful writing was once a very important part of one's education. Now, it has become yet another item on the list of things that have been lost over the years. But, it doesn't have to be that way. Beautiful writing is an art as well as a practical skill and calligraphy often takes it to a whole new height. So here we have a lot of possibilities for teaching practical skills, art, one can link it to history, through illuminated manuscripts for instance and just plain good writing. In Charlotte Mason approach, dicatation and copywork figures very prominently to teach all kinds of subjects including science, math and geography besides other things. More on that later. But here is a link to a number of penmanship and calligraphy links from Meggiecat, a blog that is no longer updated regularly but has a ton of amazing crafty stuff in the archives.
Some even claim there is a whole science called graphology that explains how a person's handwriting reveals a lot about the author's character when one knows how to analyze it. A fascinating subject to explore in conjunction with psychology perhaps.

Montessori links

Here a few links to montessori blogs with some great activities and ideas as well as more excellent links to montessori material.
The Wonder years
The Learning Ark

Here is a link to a Montessori materials store that can also provide inspiration for what kind of things one can do with kids at home.
For Small Hands

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

More adorable crafts, this one for preschoolers

I find that blogs are great for finding amazing ideas of what to do with kids. These blogs are usually very positive places where people, mostly mothers, write about the things they really love. Here is a totally adorable doll house project from Filth Wizardry made out of recycled plastic bottles. Enjoy!!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

On teenagehood, toddlers and extended childhood

I have been mulling these ideas over for a bit. Particularly, because the Torah view is so different from the contemporary attitude of the western world. What is the Torah attitude towards teenagehood? I think from the halachic point of view and from psychological make up of a teenager it is clear that teenage years are meant as a passageway from childhood to adulthood. When a child reaches bar/ bat mitzva age, Judaism treats him/her as a full fledged adult. Until the age 20 the Torah cuts the kid some slack and gives him a chance to get used to his adult status, so he is not subject to Divine punishment until that age. But even from the very way teenagers behave, it's evident that the way Hashem made them, even as they are morphing from a child into an adult, the big emphasis is on forging an identity and being able to stand on one's own. Most teenagers feel that the know it all and better than anyone else, that the world is full of opportunities. This larger than life feeling propels them forward, unshackled by adult inhibitions and due to the lack of life experience, unafraid and unaware of all possible consequences. They say there are a lot of parallels between teenagehood and toddlerhood. Again one finds this push for individuality, independence and expanded venues. Parental support is vital during both those stages in a child's development. But in general the Torah stresses that everything is good in it's own time. There is a time to be a child, certain stages one has to traverse in one's educational journey (when to teach what), certain skills that have to be acquired (such as swimming and a profession) but there is certainly a time to grow up, stand up and be counted. It's detrimental to a person's development to extend childhood beyonds it's natural boundaries, to continue to play and lead a carefree existence when duties and restrictions are in order. The lack of obligations cripples an individual. A person is supposed to learn, grow, acquire more responsibilities, learn how to deal with other people outside his immediate family, get married, make a living, raise children, etc, etc, etc. Hashem put it into the person's nature to want all these adult things when he reaches teenage years and following the Torah prescription rather than the dysfunctional model of the western society today, facilitates this important transition and helps insure the well-being of both the parents and the children. I think if we make an effort to treat our children as competent adults rather than foolish children, expect them to act responsibly and take on new challenges as they mature, it will provide the room and proper environment for them to grow into the kind of people we would like them to be.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Engineering for kids and more

Here is a link with lots of good stuff for kids with subjects including engineering, gardening, photography, etc. Worth exploring the possibilities.

For the puzzle lover

Here is a link for those that enjoy puzzles, I haven't had a chance to look at it carefully yet but it looks good. Enjoy!!!

Friday, July 10, 2009

More good stuff

Here is another link for a collection of nice family activities, recipes, crafts etc. I particularly like the section on keeping journals.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

L is for literature

While I will take a good old fashioned hard copy book over online reading any day, it is very useful to have things handy online. Here are a few literature links that might be useful.

And of course dictionaries are very important so here is a link to one.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Another really cute project

Here is a really cute project that could take some time i.e. perfect for something to do during summer vacation - a play shul. There is also a doll house variation on the same blog as well as other good ideas. Enjoy!!!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Confessions of a book junkie

I love books. In fact I am convinced that one can never have too many good books in the house. Computers are nice but there is nothing like sharing a great book with a child or reading one in general. There is the excitement of the search, the anticipation, the actual reading and then sharing your thoughts and reactions, etc. So much pleasure from such a seemingly simple activity. I consider books and related book activities one of the main ways to teach and learn things with your children that is also very easy on the parent in terms of preparation aside from the time investment. The possibilities are almost infinite. Of course you have to prescreen for content and illustration suitability. The benefits of reading to and with children are well documented. All good education approaches have good books at their base. It's a great way to encourage language development, increase vocabulary, learn about myriads of subjects, practice communication and other life skills and of course spend quality time together. I get excited just thinking about it.
Here are a few links for good children's book sites for ideas of what's out there.
FUN Books

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Interesting art and crafts links

Here are a few links for some interesting paper crafts
Tea bag Folding
Iris folding

And another link for yet another craft compendium with some great ideas for what to do with the kids in the summer Whip Up

A nice site with old out of copyright book art Old Book Art that could be used for decoupage projects.

The long view

Parenting often involves balancing the here and now while at the same time being able to project years if not decades into the future. Our sages say that a wise person anticipates the outcomes of his actions. One has to be able to deal with today's challenges and needs but also to envision what you'd like to imbue your child with in order for him to actualize his potential in the future and become the adult he was meant to be (not always synonymous with what the parent wants). A few years ago, I attended a parenting class given by a student of Rebetzin Spetner, a renowned educator here in Israel. One of the things that really stuck in my mind was that if a parent decides to correct a certain negative behavior in a child, it has to be something that either hurts the parent/ child relationship or something that is to a child's detrement in some way, otherwise it's better to ignore that behavior. And very importantly, a parent has to make sure that what he is punishing isn't the child's personality. A person can never change his innate nature, you have to work with what you have. It's imperative therefore, to have a realistic picture of who your child is, by really getting to know your child. Parenting mostly involves the parent working on his own character. Parenting and marriage are really the best middos workouts one could wish for if used properly. Often it involves giving up instant gratification for long term gain. Very rarely do problems have instantaneous solutions. One really has to learn how to take the long view while appreciating and enjoying the journey.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

L'chvod shabbos

In the end of the day, what else do we want, but for our children to be good, holy Jews, please G-d.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Nothing new under the sun

Sorry Mr. Editor, more music.

What's cooking?

Cooking and baking are another two activities that most children really enjoy and are very good from the educational standpoint. Besides being very useful practical skills, they are also great ways to teach responsibility and build self-esteem by allowing the children to contribute and participate in the running of a home. One can make it as simple or as complex and sophisticated as desired. It's appropriate for all age groups, which makes it a wondreful activity that could be shared as a family. Plus, it's a great springboard into other subjects such as: math -measuring and counting, history and geography- trying out various cuisines from different eras and places, art and creativity can also be made part of cooking- garnishing, cake decorating, improvising recipes, science - there are many scientific principles that could be tought with food and many experiments that could be done right in the kitchen. All these also can lead to a feeling of camaraderie and teamwork in the family which are important social skills in and of themselves. These are just a few of the many ideas and I'll try to post specific projects/recipes in the future.