Sunday, December 11, 2011

The goings on

Oh, it's been a while!  There have been quite a few things going on here but writing informative blog posts just hasn't been one of them:)  Sigh.  I guess it's another thing to add to a very very long and probably, highly unrealistic postpartum plan list.  So here is a short synopsis of what we have been up to.  We finished Multiplication 2 and Division 2 of the Math Mammoth Series.  I think we'll need to do some more practice with the word problems just to keep up with the retention. I should go and look at the to see what's available as far as additional word problems are concerned.  We are continuing with the Italics cursive copywork and I am very happy we have waited a bit on the cursive front, because now it's going more smoothly and enjoyably than I think it would have gone had we tried earlier.  In geography, we covered various landforms  using some worksheets the link for which I need to find again.  We are continuing with Grammarland, which is very enjoyable but as far as getting enough practice, I think we'll need to follow up with something else in the future.  The boys are doing well with their hebrew reading, writing, grammar and are motivated to make quicker progress so we can move on to other more exciting and challenging things.  We did some good work on dictionary using skills with ds8.  Ds9 continues to read everything in sight and to my great delight ds8 is also beginning to show more signs in his progress towards independent reading.  I need to work on English reading with both of them and start some with the girls as well.  History and science have been happening frequently but in a very informal way.  Dh is very good with this kind of spontaneous teaching and these subjects just happen to be something that he really loves and it shows. We had many good discussions on many subjects and practical matters.  The boys are doing well in Tae Kwan Do.  Everyone has been spending a lot of time out of doors.  It is noticeably colder and it it's a full time job to make sure everyone doesn't forget to dress for the weather and is supplied with plenty of vitamin C and doesn't get such unnecessarily:) It has been perfect soup and tea weather and we have adjusted ourselves accordingly:) We celebrated Rosh Chodesh Kislev with brownies and sufganiot (jelly doughnuts) and a good time was had by all.  We had some great rain storms, something that all of us are very excited about, here in Israel where the rain season is pretty short.  It was wonderful just to sit and watch the downpours.   Equally exciting,  to see the leaves being twirled around by the wind and the birds frolicking around the yard.  All of the above gave me some ideas for future science/nature study explorations.  We read lots of Chanukah books and in general there has been regular reading aloud to the five and younger audience.  I need to get back to reading to the older kids more.  There has been a lot of kid inspired arts and crafts sessions.  Dd5 is making nice progress with her Hebrew printing and copying.  We have also started doing a little bit of more formal math with the younger set which makes them feel very grown up, because they too are now doing their work:)  In general, there were  a few things that I've would have loved to get to but I don't think are going to happen until I can manage more things physically such as art and organized crafting and other subjects that I would like to add in at least on occasion.  Those will just have to wait for the time being.  But I think most of the basics have gotten done even though  I had to keep our lessons a whole lot more structured than I would like in the long run, just to instill good discipline and good work habits and such.  I hope in the future we can introduce more unstructured learning time when I could just read to the kids and discuss and maybe reserve an official crafting day for us to do more projects together, something that I miss and I think they do too.  I've been reading a lot and making extensive lists of all the exciting projects I've found and ideas I've researched and promising looking books I saw recommended.  There are many posts waiting in the pipeline and Heaven only knows when they'll materialize, but here are a few I'd like to get to soon -Chanukah inspirations and projects, ruminations on a healthy diet, diy projects I'd like to get to sometime this year and other crafty links and thoughts and a whole bunch of great links on the subject of language arts that I have found and enjoyed recently.  So there is a lot to be grateful for and a lot to look forward to, life here is always full and overflowing and extremely busy- thank G-d.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Some great ebook finds for homeschooling

I prefer real hard copy paper books to ebooks any day.  There is nothing like a feeling of reading or even paging through a favorite book or looking at beautiful illustrations or seeing a child do the same.  It's certainly one of my favorite pastimes.  I just love books and ebooks and kindle files are just not the same.  But having said that, there are quite a few advantages to utilizing ebooks in one's home education.  Because it is cheaper to produce ebooks, pdf ebook files are often more cost effective than their paper counterparts, probably even if one uses a printshop service to print them out.  The fact that they are instantly downloadable, especially if one lives somewhere where books in english are harder or more expensive to obtain is also a huge plus.  If the book is a workbook type of a book, it's simpler to use it with multiple children, one simply can print out more than one copy of each lesson, so these books are not consumable which only diminishes the over all cost of the ebook.  Also, the information available in these ebooks is not always available from other sources. These books are often written by other homeschooling parents or educators sharing their experience, expertise and passion for their subject, which make the information provided all that more valuable. In addition, sample lessons or pages are often provided, so one could get a good feel for what one is getting.   So here are a few interesting ones I came across recently which I am considering buying at some point to enhance our studies.
Roots and Fruits Vocabulary Curriculum for K-12 -  I was looking for a good roots based way to teach vocabulary or really for any good way to enrich the children's vocabulary, in addition to just reading good books.  This program looks very promising, it gives a parent a nice framework for how to teach the above for different age groups, it's not very time consuming or labor intensive, doesn't require any exotic materials and one can plug in one's own vocabulary words if so desired or one can use the words supplied.  It's compatible with the Charlotte Mason/Classical education type approach.  Out of everything I've seen so far I like this program best and compared to the other pricey things out there, this one is very cheap.  No need to buy many workbooks or study guides or anything else -a no frills, customizable program which packs a great educational punch.
Writing with the Best I and II - another interesting looking curriculum from the same author as Roots and Fruits.  This one teaches great descriptive writing through modeling techniques of great world literature.  Again short lessons are used to teach grammar, proof reading, literary analysis, listening comprehension among other things in addition to good writing, using varied genre of literature.  Again, this program can be used with multiple ages and later applied to one's personal choices of literature.  This writing program is CM/Classical HS compatible. So this too looks very promising.
Here are another two helpful books for CM/Classical homeschooling -Delightful Dictation With Spelling and The Dictation Treasury by C.S. Fairfax, great for copywork, dictation and teaching spelling in context. Both are available as cheaper ebooks from, can be used with multiple age groups, customized for one's personal tastes and generally make things easier for both students and parents without sacrificing quality. 
The Phonics of Drawing - I've been looking for a drawing course that was engaging, comprehensive enough, easy to teach and affordable.  I haven't been able to find something comprehensive enough among all the free art lessons available online, especially for the elementary age.  We've tried Drawing With Children but I've been unable to use it with the kids successfully on a consistent basis.  There are blogs by a few homeschooling moms that made their own lessons to go with the book which I might use in addition to this program or afterwards.  This program though, looks more user friendly for what I think we need right now.  So I am very excited about this find.  There are also other courses available on the same site, if one wants to continue further - watercolor painting, working with pastels and other media, etc.  There are cheaper and more expensive options for later on but for the beginners there seem to be quite a few affordable options to try out.
Drawing on History here is another interesting idea for combining the study of art and history.  It's for an older age group but I think it might be adaptable for an upper elementary age or modified.   Either way it's something to consider.
And finally here is a link to a set of ebooks that teach one to map the world  by heart using various techniques.  I've been eyeing Mapping The World By Heart on amazon for a number of years but it remains very expensive.  Yet, it is something I really wanted to do with my children.  So this option looks good - using simple lines and mnemonic devices the author  teaches one to recreate world maps from memory, he says he used this program successfully teaching his children aged 8 and 9, to memorize  the whole thing within a few months. I think this might be something we might enjoy.  We happen to have a few real geography enthusiasts around here:) I've read in a few places that map drawing, coloring, etc is a good way to teach chilldren geography during the elementary years.
So here are my latest ebook finds of interest.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The goings on

Here is what we have been up to in the last week and a half.  We are continuing with Mammoth Math, finishing up Multiplication 2 and Division 2. We've been doing many word problems that included many topics like fractions, beginning equations, working with decimals, as well as different problem solving strategies. I am glad the boys are getting a lot of practice with these.  Ds9 has once again requested we do some geometry once we are done, I've been planning on doing just that, so that will probably be the next topic.  The boys are enjoying Grammar Land and have no difficulty in doing the exercises that go with the text.  I am happy they like it because the language and the vocabulary is by no means simple.  I do think that they would need some additional something to reinforce all the concepts covered. We started doing some history of Ancient Greece last week.  Ds8 really likes the Great Wonders of the World by Russel Asch so he has been getting a lot of informal history but ds9 needs some encouragement in the history department.  I am hoping once we start the Guerber book he'll be more interested.  In copy work we have moved on into cursive in our Italics Beautiful Handwriting for Children and the boys are doing better than I expected, it really is an easier transition after using Italics print.  We didn't get to do science last week, at least not formally.  We didn't get to bake together or do any projects, we were just too busy with other things.  But I am hoping to get to some of it this week and as I wrote before, I am trying to add a thing or two every week as we get more settled into the routine.  There was a lot of free- form arts and crafts by all the interested parties, mostly by the younger set. Dd5 wanted to do some worksheets like her older brothers, so I printed out some math for her to try out.  She had no difficulty with counting but did have a hard time copying actual numbers and she did enjoy coloring her pages afterwards.  Over all I don't think it was a great success, so I am thinking of trying something else with her.  What did work, as I saw suggested on a CM blog, was tracing over letters. She didn't have any trouble with that and in fact requested we do that again.  We did get to read out loud, especially with the little ones.  I really hope we get to do more of that with everyone. Ds9 does plenty of independent reading on his own.  We went back to geography this week.  We started out with some review - continents, hemispheres, longitude, latitude and other geographical terms.  I am hoping to cover various landforms and their defintions this week.  I found some good worksheets and some montessori materials on the subject.  So that's on the agenda. The boys have been doing their mazes as well and had a good time constructing with plasticine and straws and old pencils. We listened to music and some story tapes, there was still plenty of outdoor time for playing and swinging, etc, some of the kids made it to the library some of the time. Lots of good discussions on many subjects.  Dh is particularly good at that and so it happens quite naturally and regularly.   Ds1.5 loves to be outside, whether to watch birds,think or play.  I really love this age.  He also learned to drink with a straw and is quite a pro now with drinking from a cup, building towers with big Leggoes and simple ball playing, so sweet.  The boys are making really nice progress with their Tae Qwan Do and are very excited about it. Ds9 has been pushing for music lessons, we really need to find something local at some near point in the future.  I've been reading many CM blogs and such to reinspire myself but also to get some new ideas to try with the younger set.  So I've been looking into CM way of teaching reading for example.  I've been also looking into ways to add picture study into our schedule in the coming weeks and some more geography ideas.  I've found some more suggestions for living history books which might come in handy.  And as always, collecting ideas for future craft projects.  So we've been busy:)  I am still trying to find a perfect balance for all these activities but most of the time we follow a flexible schedule for some of the time and play it by ear for the rest, which seems to work out just fine.  Over all I think we have succeeded in keeping thing relatively positive, various kids have been having various disciplinary issues, but for the time being we are doing the best we can and as I said, for most part things do fall into place.  I've been looking for some ideas as to how to add vocabulary and drawing into our studies.  I've found some interesting possibilities, to be posted later.  And so it goes, thank G-d.

Friday, November 11, 2011

And a few more links of interest

Here are a few more links that might be of interest to home educators.
These two are from Homeschool Freebie of the Day: - lots of printable mazes and other puzzles. Mazes are supposed to be very good for brain development in children.
Some art history lessons
Here is a link to a blog with lots of links to different resources in many subjects to explore

Fall Crafts and Other Crafty Links

Well, fall has finally come to Israel.  It looks, feels and smells like fall.  We even had a few first rain storms of the year.  Clementines and persimmons are suddenly in season.  I really love fall and I would really love to do some crafting with the kids, even though I am not sure how much of it will be realisticall possible this year. These links are worth saving for the future as well.  I can't wait to try some of these, sooner or later:) Happy crafting!
Lots of great fall projects from Pink and Green Mama - just search under fall leaves
A great collection of art ideas on trees from Harmony Art Mom
Lots of creative fall projects from the Crafty Crow
Fall Leaf Butterflies
Plaster Leaf Project
And other crafting inspirations:
Popsicle stick bracelets
Great quilling art examples
Art journal page idea from

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Some interesting links for learning science

I was looking for some ideas on teaching science at home and some book recommendations (something I never seem to get enough of:)).  So here are a few links that I came across in my research.  What I really like about these sites, is that one finds many good book suggestions that include books both old and new, many of which I had not seen on other homeschooling sites. I spent a lot of time browsing through these:) Enjoy!
And two more:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Some history reflections and links

As I have written previously, I've been looking for a history curriculum for a long while now but all to no avail.  I didn't come across a single one that I 'd find suitable, most were too slanted one way or another or hopelessly PC or had a very clear political agenda.  It seems the study and teaching of history has really suffered in the recent decades. Historical revisionism is very prevalent these days even when it doesn't go by that name. It's really quite disturbing.  The many falsehoods written and prapogated about the Arab-Israeli conflict is just one blatant example (see here for a good article demonstrating the above)but unfortunately there are others.  Now, I could understand  that sometimes there could be different interpretations of  a single set of events even propaganda but what we are seeing today is an elimination of facts if they don't suit someone's fancy or an invention of a whole new set of facts out of whole cloth. One sees it in books, articles, academic lectures, etc.  In general, once upon a time a person couldn't be considered truly educated, unless he was a student of history. This was how one learned about how the world works, what makes human beings tick, what lessons could one learn from the past that could be applicable for the present and the future. These days one sees tremendous ignorance, confusion and distortion, as well as the inability to understand that by discounting the past, one cripples oneself in the present.  So I decided to follow the living book route a la Charlotte Mason and continued to read up on the subject. There is a lot of interesting and valuable reading material out there - some of these are living books in their own right.  Here are a few:
Practicing History by Barbara Tuchman- lots of great perspective on history teaching, learning, writing etc.  She also lists some great history writers of the past to illustrate what great historical writing is all about.  Probably all her many other books on history are living books and a worthwhile read too.
Begin Here by Jaques Barzun - even though the author applies himself mainly to the critique of public school education there is still plenty to learn for anybody interested in the subject.
Unqualified Education by Gareth Lewis - there is a whole section in this book on learning history at home, with lots of great suggestions as to how to go about it, as well  as a discussion of what is wrong with the way history is taught today.  I disagree with the author's political views but he has a lot to offer as far as practical educational advice is concerned.
Finally, I stopped looking for a curriculum per say and started looking into how people learn and teach history in their home and then I started to find some interesting recommendations.  Some vintage history authors came up, one was Helene A. Guerber's history series in particular.  And some of these books are available in the public domain and some have been republished and some made available as ebooks.
Many years ago, back in the States, we lived next to a great library, one of the interesting things in that particular library was that they had a few shelves of these really old books one could borrow.  My children were too small at the time but I took some out for myself and was greatly impressed with the quality of content and language.  So these might be very useful in our history studies.  Here are a few links where some of these  books are available for the modern reader.
Heritage History - lots of old books in many categories, as well as ebook files for very reasonable prices, illustrations, maps, study guides.  I would pre-read the ones that are of interest to make sure there is nothing objectionable in them, some creative editing might be required in some places when using as a read aloud. So far I was favorably impressed. - another site where on could read these oldies online, they have a companion website where these could be bought as books or ebooks.
Project Gutenberg also has some of these but I like the format better on the above two websites.
So I think this is the plan for now, to start reading to the kids about ancient history with some of these, after all ancient history hasn't really changed.  I also keep a list of other living books that are of a more recent vintage that might be interesting to us.  I've read a few chapters from the Guerber Ancient histories and they were really very engaging, well written and informative.  We'll see how it goes:)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Back to work

Here is another belated post. Sigh.  The last two weeks were spent getting back into the swing of things with our lessons.  I always find the kids are excited to get back to doing things after a nice long break, like the one we've had.  So here is what we've been up to.  We are continuing with Mammoth Math, finishing up Multiplication 2 and Division 2.  It is a nice thorough program, with lots of practice examples to make sure mastery is achieved.  However, there is a certain amount of overlap between various units, which sometimes can prove to be an overkill and sometimes allows one to skip some units altogether.  Once we are done with this, we'll continue with Fractions 2 and I really would like to do some geometry with the boys this year.  We are continuing with Beautiful Italics for copywork.  Ds9 requested some spelling work, so I am looking at various possibilities, Zaner-Bloser has a free program here which is one possibility or The Natural Speller it the other one I've been considering.  But I haven't made up my mind yet.  We've started Grammar Land by M.L. Nesbitt and the boys like it and we do the exercises in the end of each chapter.  I am trying out some chemistry lessons from Ellen McHenrey's free downloads to see how he boys will like it and we'll decide whether to continue or try something else.  We've done some baking together, which everyone enjoys.  There has been a lot of free form crafting by all those so inclined.  I started doing some more formal math with dd5 and dd3.5 is also making nice progress with counting and other basics.  We've listened to some classical music, the youngest two would dance to pretty much anything.  The boys are making nice progress with their English reading with ds9 finally getting to the point where he would consider reading something in English to himself of his own free choice, thank G-d.  Ds8 is getting better but we definitely need to do some phonics review with him.  He is also very into science and history these days so I am hoping to add more of this kind of stuff as we get more settled with all the basics.  They are doing fine with their Hebrew reading, writing, grammar, etc in the workbooks we are using. The weather has been very mild for most part so everyone still spends a lot of time outdoors, playing, swinging, watching birds, contemplating life, etc.  We've done quite a lot of reading out loud catering to various interests and had many great discussions on a variety of subjects as the result - Einstein, nuclear reactors, astronomy, current events, to name a few topics that come to mind.  I am still trying to come up with  a suitable schedule which will work best for all of us.  There are so many things that I'd like to be able to do with them and so many individual needs and interests that I'd like to address but I guess it will have to wait a little more and sometimes just going with the flow to a certain extent is an acceptable solutions for the time being too.  In the coming week, I am hoping we'll get to do some more formal history and geography and art would be nice too as would be an official crafting project day but it might have to wait another week if we can't fit it in:)  I have lots of great links to post for many, many subjects, which is another project for the upcoming week.  Overall, I think we are making good progress, even though some days are rockier than others and many times the lessons take a whole lot longer than I expected.  I really hope they will be able to do more independent work in the future but for now I feel I need to invest the extra time to gets things off to a good start and besides we like spending this time together:) To be continued...

Friday, October 28, 2011

A few more Succos inspirations for the future

When I was looking for interesting Sukkah decorating ideas, I came across an article here with different  traditional sukkah decorating ideas from Jewish communities from around the world throughout history, definitely something interesting to consider and something that might come in handy in the future sukkah decorating projects.  Also here is another creative sukkah decorating idea from with lots of more decorating and holiday ideas to explore.  Finally, here is a link discussing growing an esrog tree from seeds or cuttings and  here is a  list of links for recipes and ideas of what to do with one's esrog once the holiday is over.

A Very Belated Succos Post

I've always loved fall but fall in Israel is very special.  There are no colorful leaves with few exceptions and the weather until the rains come is often indistinguishable from summer but the holiday season mood prevails and that is what makes it different from the other falls in other parts of the world.  I love how the genral mood changes from Yom Kippur solemness and seriousness to Succos joy.   I love  the post -Yom Kippur bang- banging noise of people putting up their sukkahs and the post- Succos bang bang crash noises of putting them away.  So this year's Succos was very nice.  We did get to do some Succos crafting with the kids, although not as much as  I had originally  hoped for but the pompom garland and the chain out of different patterned wrapping papers came out very nice and the kids did a great job decorating the sukkah with decorations new and old (  hopefully I'll post some pictures once I overcome my various computer issues, sigh).  The weather was beautiful.  We really stayed close to home this Chol Hamoed but the kids did get to do some local things and for most part we just stayed home, enjoyed the down time, dealt with chaos if it developed and enjoyed the holiday.  The menu was pretty simple with pot roast, chicken roast, moroccan style chicken stirfry with lemons from our yard, unstuffed cabbage, salads, cake, parve ice cream and such and that worked out just fine.  Everyone enjoyed shaking the arba minim, esrogim (citrons) smelled divine and made me think how someday when we have a place of our own, how nice it would be to have an esrog tree in our yard as well as an arava (willow) tree and some hadassim(myrtles), some day.  The kids enjoyed the Simchas Torah  excitement, I think something has to be done about the overwhelming amount of candy and other sweets that they consumed in schul for the future but in the end it was nice.  The kids helped take down the Sukkah just as they helped put it up and that was that for this holiday .  Somewhere in between all this we brought up the winter clothes, distributed sleeping bags and winter blankets as the weather slowly began to change towards a colder one.  I think the children got a well needed break from everything over the last month and are now ready to dive in, into the rest of the year and settle down to a routine.  I've been aslo trying to organized us for the coming months of life and learning.  I've been meaning to write sooner but with everything going on it was hard to find the time and energy.  The Shalit deal, has also cast it's difficult shadow over many people's Succos this year.  Of course, we were all very happy to have Gilad Shalit back from Hamas captivity after over 5 years but the hefty ransom that the Israeli government decided to pay left lots of people upset, hurt and apprehensive. There were many reasons why the deal was struck at this junction and lots has been written on the subject both for and against only time will tell how the implications will play out, may G-d protect us all much like the sukkah is meant to remind us that true protection comes from Above even if we are in a rather makeshift shelter, which is not much of a shelter at all.  So this has been weighing heavily on my mind and so this post is very very late.

Friday, October 7, 2011

An Israel update for this Erev Yom Kippur

Here is another post that has been in the pipeline for a while, since the Palestinian hoopla at the UN.  Our PM gave a very strong speech pretty much outlining everything that is wrong with the notion of the fruitless peace process,etc see here.  Alas, his words have fallen on many deaf ears or rather the people who really needed to hear them have since continued to behave in exactly the way he has described in his speech undeterred by truth, history or morality.  Sigh.  Here are a few excellent articles that describe the situation and shed light on what is really going on - Land Without Peace by Charles Krauthammer in Washington Post, UN's Theatre of the Absurd by Melanie Phillips and From Israel,Faith that Sustains by Arlene Kushner.  There were quite a few more  but I think these really encapsulate what I would have liked to say.   Today, we bought some new canvas Sukkah walls, some of them have a beautiful picture of Jerusalem with words from Tehilim (Psalms) - just like mountains surround Jerusalem, so  does Hashem encircle His people.  May Hashem bless us with a sweet, beautiful and peaceful year and continue to guard us from all harm and may He spread his Sukkah (Tabernacle) of Peace over the Jewish Nation and over Jerusalem! Gmar Chatima Tova!

Sukkah decorating ideas - garlands and buntings galore

I've been thinking of trying some of these since last year, when I realized that all sorts of garlands can make wonderful sukkah decorations.  They are for most part fairly easy and fast to make and kids like to make them and it's a type of project that can be done with different ages. This definitely a family friendly kind of a project, just the kind I love. So this year when time and energy are very scarce I found this great link on Squidoo ( one of my favorite places for getting great ideas) with literally hundreds of creative ideas for all sorts of garlands and buntings.  I hope to make at least a few of these to add to our ever growing stash of sukkah decorations.  Very exciting and good for creating sweet memories for years to come.  Enjoy!

Shifting focus

I've been thinking about writing this post for a while but it was one thing after another and it just didn't come together as I kept revising and updating in my mind.  But tonight as I once again faced the prospect of wanting to write and not getting to it, it occured to me that what I was really aiming to say is very relevant to Yom Kippur, which will be upon us shortly.  On one hand, things have really not been going according to plan,my plan that is:) First, the printer broke down, the computer was more dysfunctional than not, then the whole family came down with a virus ( fevers, head aches, flu symptoms, rashes, oy) and more of the same.   So the planned lessons, the holiday baking I was hoping to do, the art projects I was dreaming about, etc, all became an impossibility and had to be either canceled altogether or severely curtailed. But on the other hand, all of the above opened up many opportunities for meaningful discussions, for informal lessons, for creating a more peaceful and relaxed atmosphere, for letting us shift focus and concentrate on things that are really important, for allowing us to absorb life lessons that seemed to be raining down in abundance suddenly.  And it made me think that really this message is one of the messages for this introspective time of the Jewish year.  One has to be able to shift focus when necessary in order to change for the better, to concentrate on what has to be done right now rather than what one wishes to be doing, to have faith and let G-d point one in the direction one needs to go, to be patient and flexible  and accept one's limitations for the time being. So often I find myself getting frustrated when I can't get to do what I think needs to be done and yet so often I find that these unintentional detours provide the unparalleled growth opportunities that would've probably never come about or certainly not as naturally or with just the right amount of impact had things gone according to plan.  So on this Yom Kippur Eve I'd like to wish everyone a Gmar Hatima Tova (May you be sealed for a good year)and a year full of blessing and faith and many meaningful detours!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Some timely inspiration for the upcoming Jewish holidays

Here is a great link to an ebook, Reflections for Yom Kippur by the Chief Rabbi of England, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, which I saw on  It's very inspirational reading for this time of the year and  offers a lot of Jewish wisdom in a very easy to read format.  I haven't read the whole thing, but what I've read so far has been fantastic.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The goings on

As I look at my sleeping children at the end of another busy day, so many things run through my mind.  Our life is full to the bursting these days.  Every day (especially towards bed time) feels like a marathon.  There is always more to do and try than could comfortable fit into one 24 hour period:)  My head is full of thoughts and ideas but many a time I am just too exhausted to write anything by the time I have a break from some of my mothering duties:)  I look at the sweet sleeping faces, the fluffy cheeks, their relaxed features.  I fix a blanket here and plant a caress there.  This one had a hard day.  And this one had a better than usual day.  How does this one have so much energy to keep on going even after so much activity and after all the others have long since fallen asleep?  Will this problem get better?  Is there a way to make things simpler right now?  I there a way to bring more order and more calm into our often hectic lives?  It's so easy to lose sight of the big picture, when one is so overwhelmed with seemingly endless details of normal living and yet when one gets hold of this bigger picture, it makes things so much more manageable.  Every day I learn something new about the nature of educating one's children.  Every day brings its' own gifts and pieces of wisdom.  The lessons have been going well for most part but I thing we need to readjust some things.  We decided that some subjects we should do together and some separately.  I think we should institute more reading aloud to the older set.  This past week we have been somewhat bogged down with getting some of the basics done.  But they are doing well and progressing and I am getting a better idea of what each one needs to work on.  We finished with the long division so now we can  move on to other things finally.  I need to find more geography material for them, which they like so much.  The boys are really enjoying their Tae Kwan Do lessons. And since I have unearthed a lot of our art supplies recently, the girls have been doing a lot of cutting and pasting and coloring and painting and other crafting with all the things that I generally leave out for them to use when and how the mood strikes them. I've been doing a lot of reading and discovering lots of interesting educational things (hopefully I'll post some of the links sooner rather than later).  I guess this is one CM principle I really stick to consistently - the parents should continue to educate themselves:) I have lots of ideas for Rosh Hashana projects, mostly inspired by other non-Rosh Hashana art projects I've seen on my favorite crafting websites.  I am trying to keep disciplining issues and power struggles out of our lessons, because the whole point is to get the kids to love and appreciate learning.  I am trying to align our lessons with general CM ideas- short lessons, high standards, lots of living books and experiences.  I think it just works better for us this way and we do get to cover many things, though never as much as I'd ideally like:)  So we are mostly sticking to the basics- math, copywork, reading, writing, geography.  And when I get uptight about getting more things in, I remind myself, that there are many ways to acquire a particular skill, so if they are memorizing their Chumash and Mishnayos but poetry isn't quite their thing yet, we are still getting the benefits of memorization.  And so it goes.  I love watching them swing in the hammock or ride their bikes or sit quetly with a book.  I love watching the two youngest dance to the music on the CD player with great happiness and abandon or lie outside watching the clouds and talking to the birds.  I love it when I see my 5 year old take her abacus to bed with her or paint beautiful magical watercolors.  And this kind of moments give me the confidence that we are in fact doing something right even as things are quite imperfect.  And so I try to get a quiet moment to collect my thoughts and my lists of project ideas and living books to investigate grows longer and longer and I don't know if and when I'll get to the things I so much would like to do. And so ends another beautiful, difficult, imperfect, full to the bursting day.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The goings on

In many ways this has been a very good week but in many ways it has made me realize that many things still need to be adjusted.  We got all the basics done as I have hoped but not much beyond that.  There was a lot of frustration and irritability on my part.  The kids were somewhat cooperative at least for some of the time.  There were a few times that made me question whether I like how things are set up right now with regards to our learning schedule.  Mostly, I felt that somehow despite trying not to, we were overscheduled, things took longer than expected, the material wasn't quite as appealing as I would have hoped, etc.  So I have some thinking to do as to how to make it better for next week.  On the bright side, I got to spend some individual time with many of the kids this week, which was very nice.  We made a nice birthday party for the eight year old.  The 3.5 year old has really come into her own this week, doing projects and just being very sweet and carefree and childlike and dancing her way through her days. The 14 month old is very charming and keeps me very busy with his toddler needs.  I got more supplies for the older boys.  I decided to spend a little more and get them things that will hopefully make doing their work more attractive.  I did a lot of reading up on various CM and other homeschooling topics of interest.  I've added many living book possibilities to my ongoing list of potential books to get.  I've found more interesting and creative art projects for us to try and for me to post one of these days:) We finally signed up for the membership at the local library.  It is small but it looks like they have a lot of classics, so that should keep us occupied for a while.  We did have lots of free and creative play this week.  There was also some squabbling and whining that tends to drive me batty more often than not.  As for academics, geography has been by far the most enjoyed subject around here this week. The boys really liked all the map skills sheets we've been doing.  I'll need to round up more interesting stuff along the same lines for next week.  We did manage to squeeze in a paper marbeling art project using shaving cream and food coloring.  It was  a successful project but very messy, definitely requiring that the parent supervising it, not be tired and irritable:)  But I think the kids really enjoyed it so we really have to fit in more of these into our week.  I do wish we would have more time just to read together, sigh.  Sometimes, I really long for simpler, less structured, less pressured days of early childhood.  But, I do appreciate the advantages and challenges of teaching older children, it just requires a whole lot more patience and understanding on my part:)  They are making good progress, though each one has areas where he needs extra work.  And so it went.  I hope next week will be less stressful, that I'll have a better lesson schedule for us, that we will have more time to slow down and do the extras I so much wanted to get to this week.  I really need to work on being more loving and less critical despite the extreme physical exhaustion which is an integral part of my current reality.  I need to relax a little bit and let things be.  Thank G-d, may good things are happening,  I am grateful I get to spend time with my children doing this,  I think even with a somewhat rocky beginning, this has been a growing experience for all of us.  So, G-d willing, we press on forward.

Monday, September 5, 2011

This and that

I am chronically behind in posting all the interesting links I come across.  So here are a few I meant to post for a while.  This past summer we did two projects that were very simple but extremely popular with a wide age range. One was making colored salt/sand art from Creative Jewish Mom here by coloring regular table salt with chalk and using clear plastic cups  and the other was making stickers by making pictures on clear contact paper with Sharpie type permanent markers ( I think this one was from Crafty Crow).  The kids old enough to do projects, loved both of these.  Highly recommended!
I listened to a great shiur on Elul by Rabbi Aryeh Nivin thanks to this post on  It was very inspirational and timely.
I saw a great idea on somebody's homeschooling blog about making scrabble tiles, using craft mosaic tiles and Sharpie markers - I am really excited about this one.  One can also find directions for making a scrabble board on Google.
I was recently reading in Raising Brighter Children by Sidney Ledson about how one's vocabulary influences one's intellectual and educational progress more than anything else because words are the building blocks of thought.  So I am still contemplating what is the best way for us to boost vocabulary growth in addition to reading great books.  Well, there are many different websites that offer many different word lists to help one in that endeavor, one just has to google for them.
I am beginning to think about Succah decorating and with so many Jewish holidays coming up, there should be many options. has lots of creative ideas as does  So that should get us started with the holiday crafting.
I am sure there are many more that escape me right now, which I'll try to post if and when I remember:)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

New beginnings

Even though the weather here is decidedly summerlike, one can feel fall approaching.  It's Elul, the holidays are almost upon us and I am already looking forward to the rain season.  This summer we've really tried to give the children a chance to relax and rest up and  start afresh.  B"H I think we've been successful, but it has been a whole lot less restful for the parents, especially dh, who devoted a lot of time and energy to all things child related, the brave man:)  We finished off our summer activities by taking the kids to a fund raising concert for the local Hatzalah (volunteer ambulance corps).  They enjoyed the concert and were very enthused about the fundraising, contributing some of their own money and said they'd love to become volunteer paramedics when they get bigger.  They spent a lot of time playing out all kinds of medical emergencies and carrying their sisters around on makeshift stretchers.  There were many different activities and informal learning opportunities over the summer.  The bigger kids are becoming much more financialy aware, so we had conversations about budgeting and making responsible financial decisions.  We took them to the stores and to a garage sale which I think brought some things we discussed into focus for them.  They deliberated as to how best to spend their birthday money, it turned out to be very educational.  But now it's back to "official" lessons.  They boys are settling into their limudei kodesh and we started our limudei chol (secular studies) as well.  For the younger set things are still more informal,  I am just trying to fit in more purposeful learning activities for them on my part - to make sure we read aloud every day, talk about interesting things, do art projects, work on basic skills, all without official lessons, just to fit things like that into our normal day to day life.  But back to the 9 and 8 year olds.  They've really grown and progressed past what we've been doing last year.  So this year, I am working on expanding on what we've been doing previously, adding some new subjects, etc.  I've made a lot of plans for us and thought extensively as to the best way to go about things to make things as enjoyable and as productive and educational as possible.  But things being as they are, some supplies still need to be purchased or unearthed post our move and it would be better if everything was already set up and organized but all in its' right time, I hope.  The first day back, I was particularly exhausted and I thought I didn't have a working printer, so I almost gave it up as a lost day as far as doing lessons was concerned but then decided to go ahead anyway and see what happens.  I figured we were just easing ourselves into a new routine anyway, so we would do it slowly to begin with.  So we did some mental math like in the olden days, before they knew how to read or write, I had them read out loud for practice, we played a geography trivia game, where I asked questions and they had to show the answer on the globe.  Thank G-d, it went swimmingly well, so well in fact, that it made me think that we should perhaps institute this kind of a no writing involved day or days on regular basis.  The kids were happy and cooperative and enjoyed their assignments, it was very stress free and very productive.  The next scheduled lesson day, it turned out my printer was working after all, so I printed out our Mammoth Math sheets ( we are doing long division now) and our italics copywork sheets and some great map skills worksheets and some language art stuff.  And again,  B"H the kids were mostly enthusiastic and did their work diligently and it went well untill they got tired.  So we finished quickly and they ran off to play.  I need to find a good balance to keep them interested and excited while keeping them challenged without making it burdensome.  Sometimes, I forget that they are really quite young still.  I need to do something with the five year old, who is in the in between age now, not yet in the same category as her older brothers but  way ahead of the two younger ones. That elusive balance again.  We finished the day off by playing and making fruit smoothies in our newly garage sale acquired blender( something I really wanted to get this summer for milkshakes and smoothies and such) and delighted in the 14 month old antics, his new walking ways and first words and attempts (often very messy but funny ones) towards independence.  And so we are back at it, even though we've been doing it for quite a while now, still each year is  different, they change, we change, life moves on, it's always a new beginning with many unknowns and lots of exciting anticipation of what this year will bring, G-d willing.  Next on the agenda - finish getting all the necessary supplies for the time being, explore different sources of books (like a library closer to our new home), make a weekly schedule so we would know what will be happening when, make a daily checklist and look at some extra-curricular activities the boys might want to pursue this year.  But also and no less important, enjoy the process and remain open to spontaneous inspirations that often tend to work out rather well.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

And so it goes - more on Israel

There is no doubt that today Israel finds itself in a rather complicated position but again this is something that has been going on ever since the inception of the modern State of Israel in one form or another.  And so it goes.  Rockets continue to be launched as Southern Israel, many terror attacks are attempted and mercifully many are prevented.  The Egyption border is no longer a border of peace and Israel has to deal with that, in addition to other security concerns, such as Hamas and Hizbullah continuously expanding their deadly weapons arsenals (while the world and the international bodies that claim to be responsible for not allowing the above, turn a blind eye), intelligence reports seem to confirm that many Libyan weapons are now flowing into Gaza.  On the diplomatic front, the PA is determined to go to the UN to unilaterally proclaim their independent state on Israel's sovereign territory, a state they could have had through negotiations many times over had they not chosen war every time.  Anyone who is trully knowledgible about the Arab-Israeli conflict after all these years of futile attempts at reaching an agreement, if he or she is honest, will realize that the problem for the Arabs is not so much the lack of a Palestinian state but the existence of the Jewish one, which the Arab side cannot abide in any borders.  Hence the conflict is not a territorial one as many would like to see it, but a religious one and therefore cannot be and hasn't been resolved by endless (and very damaging to Israel) concessions.  Add into this the falsehoods and distortions, delegitimization attempts and just plain viciousness addressed towards Israel these days and it's not a pretty picture.  Here is a great video posted by Anne of Anne's Opinion here, which sheds some historical and legal perspective on the situation here.

Also, here is another insightful article by Barry Rubin about the misunderstanding of the situation by the Middle East pundits and such and another here by David Warren on the same topic more or less.  And another one here by Dennie Praeger refuting the apartheid lie about Israel.   There are many clear thinking people out there, stating the truth, one can really scream this from the roof tops until one is blue in the face, the question is will anybody care or listen or do anything about it?  It's so much easier to follow the crowd, the path of least resistance, even if it's false and immoral.  It take courage to stand up to evil and injustice.  And so it goes.  We have survived and thrived in this volatile and often dangerous region with G-d's help against all odds until now and with G-d's help we will continue to do so, even after this September:) "The Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps!" There is no reason to give in to panic and here is a very astute post by Daniel Greenfield on the subject of media induced panics.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The best laid plans - Part II

Here is the rest of my tentative plan for the year. 
For the younger set (5 and under), I think we'll just continue with lots of reading, learning the basic concepts and skills, lots of simple projects- they are very into arts and crafts these days and let them participate in as many things as possible with the older kids according to their interest and ability.  The 5 year old might be ready for some phonics work, she also loves geography and having a great visual memory loves learning new places on the map despite not being able to read. We might incorporate some Montessori activities as well.
 I read through quite a few pre-school books that I have and project books that I have for this age for inspiration -Don't Move the Muffin Tins by Bev Bos, One-to-One Learning by Gareth Lewis, Raising Brighter Children by Sidney Ledson  in particular have many great ideas for very young children and up.
I think for the younger children just reading to them, lots of creative play, art projects, outdoor play and exploration, exposing them to interesting and beautiful things and ideas and just participating in regular family life and activities provides plenty of preparation for launching into more formal academics when they are ready.  And that, as they say, is that.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The best laid plans- Ah, the possibilities! -Part I

We are still in our summer mode this week.  But I've been doing some planning for the upcoming year.  My computer mysteriously stopped working for about a week, which freed up a lot of time for rereading my favorite education and homeschooling books, putting it all together in one coherent plan, just thinking and brainstorming and ruminating.  Then just as mysteriously as it stopped, the computer started working again:)  Anyway, so now I can write it all up.  A little bit about my planning process first.  I started out just thinking about what I'd like our educational goals to be for this upcoming school year. I thought about what the children need to work on, what their particular interests are right now, about what will work with our current constraints such as time, energy and resource availability, what would work better for us as family.  Then I hit the books to revisit various teaching suggestions, combed through many book lists, researched the areas that were not applicable until now or where I wanted to get a better picture for the direction we wish to pursue in our studies, I got more ideas online, looked at my own archives and then wrote things down.  We also have an additional challenge of having to learn some subjects in two languages, so I had to plan for it accordingly.  I think of these plans as a flexible framework, we'll change and adjust things if necessary.  Overall, our general approach continues to be eclectic but heavily influenced by the Charlotte Mason approach.  As I wrote previously, I like the interdisciplinary nature of CM, the short lessons, integrating art, poetry, music, nature, history and skill acquisition into a learning system which is very well suited to young children but also provides a lot of breadth and sets a good foundation.  This is what has worked best for us over the years.  As much as I was inspired by the Classical Education approach, I haven't found a satisfactory way to make it work with all of our children, CM way just works better for us in practice while providing  the same benefits I would have hoped to gain from the Classical Model. So here we go:
Math: We will continue with Mammoth Math, both boys are doing well with it.  I usually go by what I'd like them to learn and where they are academically and developmentally, occasionally looking at other books to get a better idea of scope, sequence, etc. The way it unintentionally worked out, is that we weren't covering the topics by grade level but because I guess one thing builds on the other in math, the children seem to be doing just fine anyway.  Sometimes, I use examples from Ray's Arithmetic as a way to assess if they have mastered a topic.  Those questions are often more challenging, so if the boys can do them, it means, they are solid.
English Language Arts: We will continue to work on reading fluency each one on his level, aiming for independent reading.  They both read independently in Hebrew but english needs more work and encouragement.  The 9 year old reads well in English but prefers Hebrew and the 8 year old  needs more work to become more of a fluent reader.  So I'll have them read out loud a little every day.  We'll continue to read out loud to them and I've been searching for suitable interesting, well written and mind/vocabulary expanding possibilities.  We will continue with Beautiful Italics for Children for our copywork/penmanship practice.  I would very much like to get them to write more this year, so I am thinking of doing some sort of journaling with them.  Until now, we have learned grammar very informally and sporadically but it worked well.  However, I'd like to move it up a notch with perhaps something more formal.  I liked what I saw in the Michael Clay Thompson program because it incorporates grammar and root work and poetry and great literature but it is very expensive and I am reluctant to invest so much money into a program that I am not sure the children would take to.  So I'll probably get some of MCT's book secondhand and see how the kids like it and then decide.  There is also a free download of 100 most used words in classics from MCT so I am thinking of using this list as a starting point in our vocabulary growth endeavors.  There are many approaches to expanding one's children's vocabulary (I'll post links in a separate post)besides just reading great books and so we'll have to live and see what works best.
History:  Both boys have expressed interest in history and historical subjects lately.  I have been unable to find a curriculum that I liked so far.  So we will continue as we have done in the past with our own explorations, lots of living books and discussions, perhaps historical coloring books, paper soldiers and other historical model making.    I am very much with CM, that history is more than just teaching dates and facts, but about introducing big ideas to children and expanding their horizons.  So I expect our studies in this area to be somewhat eclectic and we'll see where it will take us.  There are lots of possibilities here.
Geography: Again we'll be doing our own thing - geography games and drills, coloring maps, map reading skills, etc.  I have plenty of ideas in my archives to get us started.
Hebrew: We have to do reading, writing and grammar here too.  So we'll use some workbooks to get us started and take it from there.  Perhaps throw in some scienge and geography in too so we could keep up with the terminology.
Science:  I think this too will be interest based and involve lots of living books, some experiments, some science kits and other educational games.  I am thinking of getting a telescope when we get a chance.  I have a list of topics I'd like to touch upon but how far and how deep we'll go will depend. I have a list of books I'd like to look into to assist us in our learning journey. 
Art: I am hoping to integrate picture study with our other areas of study such as language, history, etc. CM style.  We'll hopefully do art projects and try out new crafts to learn new skills.  It would be nice to get them to draw in a nature journal -we'll see.  As to craft ideas, there are plenty in my archives and  I collect more all the time:)
Music:  Hopefully we'll fit in some composer studies and piano lessons for the boys. 
Physical Education: Just playing and doing things outside, bike riding, etc.
Practical/Life skills:  Just living a regular life in our family should help them learn all the basics: personal hygiene, discipline, home economics, cooking, baking, cleaning, getting along, etc.
I think I'll have to make some kind of a check list to help us keep it all together and come up with a schedule to make things easier.  I still need to organize things better, make sure we have all the supplies and a good way for boys to organize and keep their work.   This is already a very long post so I'll leave the plans for the younger set for a different time as well as provide more details for some of the above.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sunny, with a chance of rocket fire

I've been computerless for a while, hence no blocks of time to write anything much.  Plenty of time to read though.  Not having a working computer has its advantages, it's quite liberating really.  Meanwhile, in Israel, rockets continue to rain down on Southern Israel, sometimes more, sometimes less.  The international media is not too keen on reporting it though.  All that, despite two ceasefire announcements by Arab terrorists.  As someone very astutely remarked once, that ceasefire to these people means that  we cease  and they fire.  So things are following the usual pattern -  Israel is endlessly urged to show restraint while at least a million Israelis are subjected to rocket fire, false moral equivalency abounds between random attacks on innocent civilians and defensive strikes in response, etc, etc. .   Nobody here is deluding themselves, today it is the South and tomorrow it could be the rest of Israel.  The other day, I took the kids to an outdoor carnival of sorts, right next to the carnival there was a booth where they were handing out gas masks.  The home front command has been issuing instructions of what to do in case of a rocket attack.  I reviewed them with the children so that, G-d forbid, if it should become necessary they would know what to do.  We have air raid practice drills a few times a year.  Sinai is a mess.  Mubarak was no saint, but there was a cold peace with Egypt maintained throughout his tenure.  All that is history now, and relying on Egypt to maintain security on the Egyptian/Gaza border is like hiring a fox to guard the hen house.  As it turned out the Egyptians were very much involved in the Eilat terror attack and its aftermath.   The PA makes no secret of their genocidal aspirations, refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish state,  denies Jewish connection to the land of Israel, has repeatedly abrogated all previous agreements with Israel, etc, etc, etc.  The world continues to look the other way, or aids and abets them.  All of this is nothing new, everything follows the predictable pattern.  But we Jews are resilient people, thank G-d, we continue to build and strive forward and make the world a better place even under fire.  We don't rely on our enemies' or fake friends' tender mercies.  History has taught us otherwise.  If someone continues  to threaten us with extinction and denying us all basic rights we take them at their word.  We will continue to defend ourselves with G-d's help, much like in the past.  The ways things are looking these days  we might need a replay of the Six Day War and this time not relinquish anything for false promises of peace.   As I wrote many times before, it's a good things that G-d runs this world and not the politicians and in the end of the day there will be justice and there will be peace on His terms.  So despite all the tumult and craziness  we are not worried.  G-d told Abraham that those that bless you will be blessed and those that curse you will be cursed.  I just hope that people will choose well. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

"Peace" in our time

Things are heating up in Israel's south.  On Thursday, we had a multi-pronged terror attack near Eilat with casualties, mostly civilians, it was well planned and coordinated and aimed not only to cause mass casualties and maim as many as possible, but apparently was meant to include kidnapping of Israelis.  Since then there has been a barrage of rockets on Israel Southern cities, again with casualties and property damage not to mention the psychological trauma even if there wouldn't be any casualties, etc.  This is what peace with the Palestinians looks like and the "international community" wishes us to have more of the same.  The condemnations from abroad if and when they materialized were anemic as usual. Clearly missile attacks on Jewish civilians are neither an obstacle to peace nor against international law according to these hypocrites, who waste no time issuing a plethora of condemnations when Jews even think of building anything on their own soil.  These rockets attacks are often completely ignored by the Western media or glossed over briefly while they spend disproportionate time reporting the Israeli response conveniently "forgetting" to mention why Israel had to respond in the first place, instead presenting Israeli attack in a vacuum as if Israel was the aggressor.   See here and here. Much has been written on the subject so I won't continue here.   There is no substitute for real security and there is no substitute for real deterrence and there is no substitute for real peace.  We don't need anybody's fantasies, gadgets only help that much, enough illusions already.  We can't afford to delude ourselves. Time will tell how this will play out but Heaven spare us from a peace like this. May G-d bless us with true and lasting peace soon!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

An old fashioned summer

It has been a really old fashioned summer this far and I think we like it this way.  There was a lot of free play outside, swinging in the hammock, digging in the sand and drinking lemonade.  There was bubble solution making and bubble blowing, some art projects and tinkering around the kitchen.  Very local outings, eating ice cream, reading stories, doing word search and crossword puzzles.   I bought all kinds of art supplies and all kinds of interesting things to color - there is an Israeli company called BUKI that puts out great and creative coloring and activity books that my children enjoy.  There were some great geography games that we played.  I finally hung up our blackboard in the new place so everyone enjoyed chalk activities.  We made lots of paper airplanes and paper boats(something tired mothers can do sitting down).  I printed out and cut out paper dolls with  beautiful wardrobes that everyone here has enjoyed.  We went to a petting zoo, we'll go for a day trip to visit family in a different town, we'll go to a concert hopefully next week.  But mostly we've been keeping close to home and taking it easy and playing it by ear and even with all that, things  are never quiet or boring around here.  We enjoy the one year old's cute antics and the three year old's funny expressions, the big boys made  "camp"  for the littles, we did do some light academic work just to stay in practice, we discuss many different things and look at books together, we bought some new school supplies.  I am making plans for the coming academic year trying to take all the different interests and learning styles into account as well the things I'd like to accomplish in the coming year, keeping in mind al the upcoming changes here, G-d willing(more on that in a separate post).  I get a real pleasure watching our children growing and changing and learning and despite the many real  challenges in the past months, I think over all we are having a good and meaningful and enjoyable summer for everyone here. 

A pregnant pause

Boy, it's been a while!  I've been really sidelined by first intense morning sickness ( in my case all day sickness) and fatigue and now just plain fatigue.  B"H, it's for a good cause but it really made me  wonder why is it that my pregnancies are rather difficult, what could be a deeper message here.  I find that because of all the physical limitations, pregnancy for me is always a time when I turn inward and think and evaluate our parenting choices and decisions this far and plan for the future as well. I have no choice but to slow down.  Some plans have to be shelved for a while or put on a backburner.  Our usual schedule gets thrown off kilter in some ways, we have to unschool much more than we do on regular basis and yet so far the learning always goes on albeit in a different form from that originally envisioned, somehow things still get done on the   education front   even as the housework waits and piles up.  All my worries and concerns aside, the kids seem to be doing and learning just fine even as I feel that there is so much less I can do wtih them right now.  Perhaps, it's G-d's  way of telling me that He is taking care of us and will carry us along and He   doesn't need me to micromanage and worry ceaslessly about every step, the children will be just fine and we'll pick where we left off when the time is ripe just as we have done in the past.  So I'll just try to take this pregnant pause in   stride and as I heard someone mention in a lecture, "keep my eyes on the prize."  B"H, good things are happening.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A very brief update

We are still trying to catch our breath from this move.  It's been very difficult, at times excruciatingly so but we are trying to regain our equilibrium and hoping that all current problems will be resolved and make us stronger.  The kids are very happy though.  They love the big yard and are making lots of friends.  We took a break from organized learning for a while but now we are trying to ease our way back into a learning routine.  Otherwise, the children have been busy playing and observing the new surroundings, we already had cats and birds visit our new domain, but mostly they spend a lot of time doing what each one loves to do, one reads, one dreams of building clubhouses and spends a lot of time out of doors, one makes up dances, one digs in the dirt, one crawls around and tries to get into everything.  It looks like children are pretty much impervious to the turmoil and stress around them as long is their personal space and inner world is at peace.  So that gives me hope and helps me get through less than perfect and difficult days. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Crafts: Homemade Eye Spy book

I love this great idea from Pink and Green Mama for making homemade Eye Spy books.  We are still digging out from this never ending move and are nowhere near project making or anything remotely like that but one can always dream for the future. Enjoy!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Crafts: Birthday counting cards tutorial

It's birthday season around here. So here is a very cute idea for a set of counting cards for a birthday.  I've made some birthday coupons in the past equal in number to the child's age for all kinds of things a particular child might enjoy. I would write it in calligraphy and decorate an envelope in some festive birthday style.   So this is kind of a variation on the theme and something quick to make especially if one might be moving in a couple of days and can't think straight:).

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Two videos for Shavuos

Here are two videos for Shavuos, the first  a real moving one from Rabbi Lazer Brody and the second one a cute and funny song.  Enjoy! Chag Sameach!

Monday, June 6, 2011

The goings on

It's been really busy and stressful around here.  I am glad we didn't have to do this for the past five years.  Moving is stressful (did I mention this already?) and tiring and I can't wait to be done with it already:)  We've been doing little else besides packing and sorting and packing some more. Well, in a few days it will be over, G-d willing and than we can proceed to the unpacking and the settling in stage. My head is full of all kinds of ideas for the best way to organize and arrange everything in the new place but really I believe one has to live somewhere first before truly knowing the best place for everything to go.  I've been looking through all my gardening books for all kinds of gardening and other outdoor things I am hoping to dowith the kids in the new place.  I keep calling it "the new place", becasue it will take time to make it into a home.  Hopefully not too long.  We have been keeping to a minimalist learning schedule of math and copywork besides the usual limudei kodesh stuff.  But there really has been no time for anything else - projects, etc.  The kids are doing very well with the Mammoth math, we are doing a mix of division, multiplication and fractions and it's nice to see how all the various sections fit well together and reinforce each other.  I think the children are seeing their own progress and are finding it encouraging.  There has been a lot of creative free play which is always cute for me to watch.  We had a little birthday party.  I think the kids picked up on a few life skills with all the moving related activities.  On the geopolitical front, things are always exciting in this part of the world.  We had violent Arab mobs again trying to crash through our border next to Syria.  The moral equivalency nonsense and other twisted reporting coming out of some reporter's mouths/pens in the wake of Israel having to take defensive albeit very very restrained actions to protect our sovereign borders just boggles the mind.  Considering how political and slanted much of the reporting in the Western media is, I wonder if it's at all possible for an average European to ever really understand things here. Some good articles here  and here and here to shed some light on the situation, mostly for the benefit of my European readers.  You won't get this from the BBC(see this too while you are at it).  The insanity and the dishonesty, deliberate or through sloppy and bigoted reporting gets to me sometimes.  There have to be some intellectually honest people out there who don't buy into this endless distortion and falsification of history and current events.  So, I am looking forward to Shavuos and to the days when the headlines won't be full of projections for this or that political eventuality, to how many missiles will fall on Israel in the next war and where, to the ever growing number and spectrum of threats and our level of preparedness for all or some of them.  G-d is watching us and guarding us here.  I wish the world would leave us alone already and mind their own business, Heaven knows they have more than enough problems of their own.  We don't need any fake peace proposals or processes.  We need the kind of peace that only G-d provides when we do what He wants.  Chag Sameach everyone, happy Shavuos, do some learning, eat some cheesecake and  leave the everyday cares for a while for this special holiday that celebrates the giving of the Torah, which made us into the unique nation that we are.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Crafts: Another flower and contact paper beauty! -flower stained glass

Here is another simple and lovely project from the Artful Parent -flower stained glass.  This will have to wait until we move in into our new apartment but it might be a great way to beautify our new space. Maybe for the girls' room window. I am looking forward to trying this with the kids!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Yom Yerushalaim, birthdays, moving and other goings on

It's Yom Yerushalaim (Jerusalem Day)here today. This was the day on which in 1967 with great miracles of the Six Day War was won and the holy city of Jerusalem was reunited and restored to the Jewish hands.  Judea and Samaria were too returned to the Jewish nation at that time.  The Arabs are still upset that their genocidal plans did not succeed then when they attacked Israel and would like to turn the clock back to that time and try again, hence the whole obsession with the 1967 lines,  but I digress.   There is a very famous picture that I love, of three Jewish soldiers looking up at the Western Wall, the Kotel with awe, right after the area has been conquered by Israel and the Jews could once again access this holy site.  It's a very special day and something to be very grateful for.  May Hashem continue to shower us with His blessings and perform more miracles for us and expand our borders to where they rightfully belong.  So at some point during the second intifada there was a campaign in the US, to support Israel by buying Israeli products.  So I bought two posters, one was of the above picture and one an amazing panoramic view of Jerusalem.  I had them hanging in my house to always remind us where our hearts should really be.  When we moved to Israel, I think I gave them to a friend.  And so it was that a year after I came to visit Israel for the first time, Hashem has answered my prayers and  miraculously we were able to move here.  We came here a day after the Second Lebanon War stopped.  And I can't believe, that it's been almost five years.  In aliyah lore they say, that five years has a special significance.  Five, they claim shows staying power.  People who managed to hold on and adjust despite the difficulties in the first five years generally stay for good. Yes, it was almost five years ago, when we packed some suitcases, took our babies, 4 years old, 3 years old and a two months old, gave away all our things in America and came here to live.  We didn't go with Nefesh B'Nefesh, didn't send a lift, we just came.  I can't believe it's been almost five years.  The babies have grown up, we've added two more since then.  Today, the two months old of then has celebrated her fifth birthday. Wow!  And now, almost  on  our fifth anniversary of moving to Israel, we are moving to a different apartment.  Weirdly, in some ways I am finding this move more difficult than moving to Israel sometimes:) Perhaps, it's another new beginning for our family, G-d willing a good one.  But part of me has a very hard time letting go of our first home here, the ancient hills outside my window, where every time I look out I feel the Land of Israel embracing me.  Maybe precisely because it was an adjustment, because it took time to make new friendships and build new relationships, I am nervous to leave the safety of it all behind again.  There are so many memories here, sigh.  But, it's for the good and it's another step in our settling here and making this place our own and  we are still going to live close to our old neighbourhood, so it's not like moving overseas.   So five years later, I am still in love with this place, I still feel the Land of Israel embracing me, I am still adjusting and I still don't want to be anywhere else.  So today on Yom Yerushalaim, I am thankful for many miracles of then and many miracle of now as we continue on our personal and national journey in this Promised Land to which G-d has led us.

Friday, May 27, 2011

An Equation

What happens when you put together a virus, a teething baby, an impending move and some very busy days in a regular course of a life? Very little time to write anything, let alone anything sensible:) Hope to  post more next week, G-d willing.  Shabbat Shalom from Israel!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Crafts: A Cute Ship Collage Card

Here is a very cute ship collage craft from Nini Makes.  So if you have kids that love to cut and paste this could turn out to be a very quick but effective kind of a project.  This promises to be a craft that can work well for a few different ages and appeal to both boys and girls.  Things have been very busy around here lately but I am hoping to get around to writing something decent soon:)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Crafts: Kraft Paper Playland

Here is a wonderful paper playland activity. It's  a project that can be made as simple or as complicated as one likes, requires very simple supplies and can be a very creative and imaginative undertaking.  It can also be used to teach or improve map making and  map reading skills.  We had a commercial version of this, a large plastic mat with roads and buildings, ets, that the kids, especially the boys loved to play with, so this might be appealing.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Recipes: Tea Ice Cream

Our family is a family of big tea drinkers.  So an idea of a tea flavored ice cream is an an appealing one.  I've made ices with herbal tea in the past and this collection of tea ice cream recipes from Whipup offers lots of possibilities and something I am sure the children will be enthusiastic about.

Netanyahu gives Obama a dose of Reality

Finally, our PM gave Obama a much needed history lesson and some reality orientation. He is speaking diplomatese  but it's a pretty forceful rebuttal to Obama's disastrous ( for Israel) ideas.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Lag B'Omer

I can smell the Lag B'Omer bonfires outside.  The excitement building up to this somewhat mystical holiday in Israel is just amazing, while in the Diaspora it's not really celebrated in a big way.  I've been meaning to listen to Rebbetzin Heller's Sfiras Haomer and Lag B'Omer shiur in  the "making the holidays meaningful for children" series. I finally got around to it tonight, while dh took the bigger children out to make a bonfire with the neighbours.  It's a really wonderful and informative lecture, which made things much more meaningful for me and it also offers LOTS of practical ideas for discussing these concepts with children, as well as things to do, to make it more concrete.  Here is the video.  It's excellent! Too bad I haven't gotten to it earlier, but something to keep in mind for the remainder of the sfira and the future. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Time to stand with Israel!

And so Obama officially threw Israel under the bus, again, in order to appease the unappeasable. Sigh.  Dumb move, also evil and consistent. No surprises there.  He demanded "full and phased" destruction of Israel a la Yasser Arafat and of course urged "bold steps" by Israel (who else?) to expedite the process. All while professing  his undying love and devotion.  This is going to go over really well here, sure.  One shudders for the world where the above delusional/asinine line of reasoning passes for serious foreign policy.  Here is an excellent and informative article by Barry Rubin on the subject.  And here is a video of Wild Bill for America explaining why he stands with Israel.  Good to know not everyone has lost it! G-d willing all will be well! This might be an interesting topic for discussion with your older children.

Craft: Another Garden Art Project

Here is another great garden art project from Artful Adventures- making pictures out of different leaves, flowers and other plants.  This fits quite nicely with nature study too. It reminds me of the projects in a book I have called Look What I Did With A Leaf!, which I've really wanted to make with the children. The same site has lots of other simple but very creative and pretty looking art  projects which I hope to try in the future and some really great suggestions for displaying children's art.  I am glad I found this one, just as I was thinking that it would be really nice to do more art projects with the kids than we have been able to for a while.  Back to the garden we go, to collect some more loveliness for our artistic pursuits:)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The goings on

There has been a lot going on around here.  We are continuing with the Math Mammoth Fractions, Multiplication and Division units.  The seven year old has requested a little bit more variety.  So I am thinking of adding some geometry into the mix.  He loves to draw so he might appreciate it.  I bought a compass the other day and he was very excited about making perfect circles with it.  Both big boys are doing well with copywork.  They are progressing with their english reading.  I decided to sneak in some poetry by having them read some of Robert Lewis Stevenson's The Child's Garden of Verses for their reading practice, we have one beautifully illustrated by Donna Young. The almost nine year old is very much into mystery and adventure these days and is reading voraciously in hebrew.  I can barely supply him fast enough.  I think his newly found reading obsession is inspiring his younger brother to make more reading progress, even though he had more difficulty with reading in any language initially.  The hebrew writing and grammar book that the seven year old is using, I think, is too easy but probably is a good review before we move on to something else.  I bought a bag of mixed plastic beads of many colors, designs and shapes so everyone has really enjoyed making necklaces, bracelets,etc.  The boys made some for the girls.  The jewelry they made came out very very pretty, much to the recepients' delight and the creators' pleasure.  We started Five Little Peppers  and How They Grew   for our read aloud long story.  So far the kids are enjoting it.  We finished the Lost Children of Tarshish and the almost nine year old announced that he would take it along if he ever went on the boat so he would have ideas of what to do if he ever got stranded on a deserted island:)  I think we should read Robinson Crusoe for kids soon.  I am continuing with letters and numbers with the five year old.  I would love to do more projects with the girls on regular basis.  The three year old has been coming up with lots of creative and ingenius ideas while playing.  Like making a swing for her doll with a scarf and some clothpins fastened to door handles.   The baby is crawling and walking holding on and being cute.  He is an active participant now in many games and in many of the family activities.  We had more science excitement here.  I signed up to the Superchargedscience newsletter so I get some great and creative science experiments in my email.  So we made a hovercraft from old CD, sport's bottle top and a balloon. The children LOVED it and we repeated it many many times.  Then we made some "litmus juice" by soaking some purple cabbage in boiling water and then tested various substances for being either an acid or a base.  The boys couldn't get enough of trying out different things and creating different colors by adding and mixing various things into the juice.  I am sure we'll be doing this again and it makes me think that they might really enjoy that Elementary Chemistry unit from Ellen McHenry I wrote about recently.  Otherwise, there was the usual sheep watching, the seven year old had a very enjoyable trip to the local farm where they raise chickens and he got to feed them and plant little seedlings and push a wheelbarrow around, etc. We need to get more organized and get the kids to be more consistent about clean up.  They like to help but we need to have more of a regular routine so their room stays relatively neat somehow.  We did some cooking and some baking.  The seven year old has rediscovered his love of vegetables to my delight.  I've been rereading some of my homeschooling books like the Homeschool Openhouse and Guerilla Learning for inspiration.  I've been reading some Charlotte Mason blogs which I haven't know about before.  I'd like to fit in some more regular drawing and art appreciations into our routine and after Lag B'Omer we can do some more music stuff again too.  So in general I try to keep things very basic, some reading, some writing and some math, plus other things if and when we have time for them.  Our days are very busy but somehow things do get done and they still have time to play and dream and talk.  So, thank G-d, despite the many roughspots these have been amazingly productive and full couple of weeks and we are looking forward to more of the same. We also had a birthday party and some stomach flu bouts and some really crazy things going on the geopolitical front when hordes of rioting arabs tried to crash through three of our borders.  Unfortunately, there's been another terror attack, this time in Tel Aviv and a young man, recently engaged to be married was killed.  Sad. We really are in G-d's hands here, one feels it in Israel all the time.  We wouldn't be here if not for divine protection. It's a good thing G-d is running the world and not the UN.  Anyhow, this pretty much covers many of the recent goings on here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Craft: DIY Hardback sketchbooks

Here is a link to a wonderful and super simple hardback sketchbook/homemade book/journal tutorial from Amy at the Angry Chicken.  I just did this with the kids today and it was a tremendous success.  As I said, I love this kind of simple projects which produce great results and give a child a real sense of accomplishment for having made something useful and beautiful.  The boys decorated the covers of their journals with scrapbooking paper.  This one is a keeper!

Craft: Shaving Cream Paper Marbeling

Here is a link to a great paper marbeling project using shaving cream and food coloring or paint.  I love projects that are simple, don't require exotic ingredients, could be used succesfully with  many age groups and produce beautiful results.  We did a paper marbeling craft a few years ago and the kids loved it, so this looks very promising:)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Lots of great geography links- Charlotte Mason, making your own drills and more

My almost nine year old recently requested to do some more formal geography and I've been looking for something ever since.  My husband has been doing a lot of informal geography with the kids and quite successfully.  I used to be the somewhat geographically challenged one in the family, but I've picked some things by osmosis over the years and I really hope that my children will avoid such fate by learning these things painlessly bit by bit when they are young.  Meanwhile, I am enjoying learning with them, another great benefit of learning with one's children, one gets to rectify one's own educational weak spots. We have a big map of the world hanging on the wall of our main living area, with the flags of all the different countries on the bottom.  The map sees regular use as my dh is a great lover of both geography and history, so he often takes them to the map to explain something.  But I figured, it can't hurt to throw something slightly more formal in, especially as it can involve copywork, history or art too.  So here are a few wonderful links I discovered while looking to put together a diy geography curriculum for us.
Here is a link to a great post explaining the mechanics of creating your own short and sweet geography drills
Here are many free printable outline maps with and without labels for coloring or labeling, also more outline map links here for the aforementioned drills.
Enchanted Learning has a ton of geography printables here for about $20 a year.  I am still contemplating whether it's worth it for me to sign up. I like their map coloring activities.
And here is a link to Charlotte Mason's Elementary Geography and  here is another CMlike book called Home Geography for Primary Grades by C.C. Long Ph.D.from Project Gutenberg with lots of great information, lovely old-fashioned illustrations and sweet poems, split into short and to the point lessons.
And here is a really exciting looking curriculum from Ellen McHenry that combines history, geography and art for a slightly older age group.
So this should give us a place to start or rather to continue with our geographical learning adventures.