Sunday, January 30, 2011

Craft: Yarn Wrapped Hearts

Here is a link to an easy and lovely craft project - yarn wrapped hearts.  Just right for the times when the kids are antsy and the parent is tired:)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Embracing frugality as a value

Frugal living is one of my favorite topics to read and ruminate about.  I've been reading various frugal tips lately and it got me thinking about frugality as a value.  Besides the obvious financial benefits, frugality, especially the voluntary kind is a good educational tool as well.  When we live a frugal life, we teach our children resourcefulness, creativity, the ability to enjoy what one has and to be happy with simple things, among others.  But the most important lesson and gift of frugal living is that a truly frugal person doesn't have his identity intertwined with and defined by his possessions, which in turn helps him overcome possible peer pressure in that regard and be able to develop himself without this nowadays common hindrance.  So I really think that one should embrace frugality as a value.  It's good for the soul, not just the pocketbook.   Here is a great website I just discovered, full of wonderful frugal tips, wherever one might find oneself on the frugality spectrum.

An unexpected nature study and other surprises

The last couple of days have been particularly grueling and as I sat down to write something last night I felt very much akin to  a squeezed lemon.  I was just too tired to come up with anything coherent.  So instead I read some nutrition information and some frugality tips. But more on that later.  This morning the girls wanted to play with the dying flowers from the previous Shabbos.  The four year old declared that she loved flowers, a sentiment I share very much.  So we discussed how flowers grow and why they die.   She is interested in where and how things grow these days, apparently.  So I gave each one a few of the flowers to make little bouquets and off they went to play.  Later on the baby ended up with one of the flowers.  The three year old enjoyed dismembering one and collecting the beautiful, velvety petals into a bag for some future activity.  We discussed how the petals felt and how they looked like leaves except colorful.  Then we got busy with other things.  But the budding botanist wasn't quite finished yet.  There she was with her bouquet and a barrage of questions.  She presented me with the a illustrated plant guide, a very pretty one with lots of pictures and requested that we identify the flowers she was holding.  so we proceeded to do just that.  For some reason the guide has mostly the latin names instead of the common ones.  So the budding botanist was wondering why I was suddenly speaking to her in a strange language.  So we had to explain that too.  So we continued our quest to identify our flowers and as we were doing that I was surprised to see, that I could identify lots of flowers and plants from our walks around the neighborhood and I could now point them out to the kids and name them and what's more, they were actually interested.  I was also excited to see that the four year old understands the concept of looking something up in a particular book to find the answers.  So there you go, a surprise nature study.  So we might feel particularly depleted but then the kids remind us, exactly why what we are doing is important and they really are listening and learning and it makes it all worth while.  So be it flowers, or pretend reading, or them taking pride in a job well done or my three year old galloping around while announcing that she is jumping over the moon because she is a cow, naturally  and all the other sweet surprises, it makes me feel not quite so squeezed out after all and pick up and carry on from here.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What's for lunch?

Here is a link for an interesting article on lunch themes from  This might take some guess work out of what to make:)Bon Apetit!!!

Monday, January 24, 2011

To cook, perchance to bake - the art of frugal eating

Here is the food post, I've been meaning to write for a nice long time.  I like to cook but I am usually pressed for time.  So my ideal  recipe is something that is easy, quick, healthy and frugal and has a high yield at the end of the process ( the kids and their appetities are only growing with age:).  I like to experiment and improvise with seasonings or substitute or add ingredients to a recipe.  Over the years, I kind of learned to intuitively know what flavors will go together, so most of the time it works out.  I cook and bake from scratch for the most part.  Having a child who is allergic to many things, does limit our repertoire somewhat but for most part everyone takes it in stride. We do get some convenience foods such as frozen burekas for friday lunch but mostly we eat simply and pretty healthily, even though one could always improve on perfection I suppose.  I have a list on my refrigerator with menu possibilities for breakfast, lunch and supper and snacks.  There, I have listed the meal ideas that I know work and those that I think might work or I'd like to try out.  I bake a lot but only quick things.  I am a mix and match cook.  When there is a little bit of something left, it usually gets reinvented as a soup or a stew by adding additional leftovers and other ingredients to make it into a full sized meal.  If I know I have company coming, I make a lot of different salads by precooking more of such things as pasta, rice, potatoes, etc and chopping up more of different vegetables and then combining the above in many different permutations, with different spices and dressings.  I make a big batch of challah on friday and some of it makes it into the week.  It tasted good reheated in the oven or made into a french toast.  Also, if I have some extra challah dough, I freeze it and then use it during the week to make cinnamon buns or something similiar.  I have lots of cookbooks, most of which I use mainly for inspiration and a few for actual recipes. I like to try out new recipes, provided they meet my criteria of easy, quick, healthy, frugal and BIG.  But occasionally, I try out things that are slightly more complex or time consuming.
So here is my list:
Breakfast:    eggs (usually scrambled), toast with tomato paste/ketchup and olives, sandwiches with hummus, or carob spread or eggs, oatmeal, sometimes with toppings, warm rice or potatoes                    
Lunch/Supper : Soups - chicken,plain or with matzo balls or rice or pasta, pea, vegetable, cabbage, mushroom/barley, leftover medley
Pasta - plain with ketchup or with stir fried vegetables or with ground turkey/chicken or with pasta sauce
Potatoes - boiled or mashed or fried or boiled and then fried,  mashed with boiled carrots or cabbage, etc.
Rice - plain or with stirfried vegetables or with fried onions and mushrooms
French toast
Sloppy joes with pita
Pizza(minus the cheese due to allergies) or Foccacia
Sandwiches with either, tuna and tomato, egg salad, hummus or a sweet spread
Snacks: Homemade bagels, muffins, banana bread, apple sauce, baked apples, cake, fruit, carrots, peppers, cinnamon buns, halva, puff pancake, pop corn, ices in the summer
We drink mostly water and tea during the week, for Shabbos we get sweet drinks like iced tea and fruit nectars. We often eat bread with our meals. 
Next on the foodmaking agenda for me, is to try making sour dough bread and lacto-fermented vegetables.
Here are a few of my favorite sources of frugal recipes or frugal cooking ideas.
The Complete Tightwad Gazette - an excellent source of great frugal recipes and general frugal living ideas
Cookmiser - a canadian cookbook translated from french so the english usage isn't 100%, but I like the general approach to easy and frugal cooking, I use some of the recipes from there
Not Just Beans - many good recipes and lots of good tips
And that pretty much covers our eating situation and of course cooking and baking are wonderful, family friendly and educational activities that allow one to use one's creativity and learn about the world at the same time:)


Craft: Rolled Flower Gift Topper

Purim is coming and that opens up all kinds of new crafting opportunities and possibilities. So here is a link for an  easy and beautiful craft using recycled materials.  I think the kids will be happy to get busy with this.

Living your dream

Beware of what you wish for, goes the saying, you just might get it.   Why such pessimism, don't we all want to live our dreams?  Dreaming is pleasant and easy but to actually make this dream a reality is something completely different. Many people are afraid to live their dreams for that reason, they are afraid that their wishes might come true.  Living a dream requires work, courage and perseverance.  It often requires sacrifice and patience.   Living your dream might sometimes leave one lonely and vulnerable, it might make one different.   But, hey, you get to live your dream, TO LIVE YOUR DREAM.  And chances are that those dreams that speak to the very core of one's being are really what one is here in this world for. How can one then relinquish that? It would be to forfeit one's very raison d'etre.  We all have our dreams, big and small.  Our dreams grow and change with us as we grow and change.  And with G-d's help, when we overcome our fears and inertia, dreams really do come true.  So keep on dreaming, dreaming big and live your dreams, that's the best reality one can get.  So why am I writing this here?  What does this have to do with jewish parenting? Because modeling is a very effective educational tool.  And our children seeing us living our dreams, will assume that it is normal to do so, and live their own.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Crafts: Soda Bottle Penguins

Here is a link to a really cute penguin project.  Soda is really bad for you but at least the bottles are good for something, besides who said you have to use soda bottles, some other plastic bottles might do just as well:)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tu B'Shvat

It's been a while since I rhapsodized about Eretz Yisrael here and I've really wanted to.  So here it goes.  Happy Tu B'Shvat, a new year for the trees!!! We had a little party with the kids and ate all kinds of beautiful dried fruit.  The stores have an unbelievable variety of all kinds of dried fruits, including all kinds of exotic ones, I never heard of being dried before like kiwis, strawberries and flowers. One sees a lot of fruit art this time of year here, there are trees being planted in honor of the occasion, it's really festive in a very moving way.  But more than anything else, it's a holiday that's all about appreciating EretzYisrael and its beautiful fruit, about growth and flowering and the amazing things that take place under the surface away from the human eye, only to appear later in all their trully miraculous glory.  It fills one with tremendous love for this great gift that Hashem has given us.  Tu B'Shvat is a good time to speak top your children about all things Eretz Yisrael.  One can also talk about trees and fruits and any other related subject (science?). There some lovely and creative Tu B'Shvat crafts at under Holidays: Tu B'Shvat and here are some wonderful shiurim to make this special day more meaningful.

A montessori idea

Here is a link for an explanation of an interesting Montessori activity for young children- pin poking.  Apparently it's a good pre-writing activity for young children.  But it made me think of that Pinbroidery activity I wrote about recently.  And now I know how to get those holes poked safely, with a pushpin! Sounds exciting!!!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

For those that like to color on walls

When we just moved in into our current apartment.  One day I found my then three year old, happily coloring on the wall.  I asked him what he was doing and why and he replied that he was just pretending to be a painter.  There is usually a method to their madness, I discovered.  So for those that like to color on walls, painters or otherwise, here are some wall and kids' room decorating inspirations.  It's really amazing what one can do with a little paint, cardboard and an active imagination. I think this could work as a family project, bigger kids long-term project or bigger kids/parents making something for younger kids.  I think something like this would be a bit too much for me, at this stage in life, but you never know:)
Blackboard Wall Make-A-Scene - I like this one and it looks pretty simple to do, one might even be able to pull this off using contact paper or fabric for some of it.
A House and Street Playscape - lots of interesting and useful ideas here, implementing even some of these, would be enough to make it exciting for the kids.
A Really Snazzy Closet to Playhouse Project - this is a somewhat  involved project, but I like the general idea of turning what you already have into something new and exciting.
Another Closet/Playhouse - an easier to make one.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Math, Art and beyond

I was doing some order of operations examples with the 7 year old today.  It was good practice of multiplication, division, addition and subtraction and mental math.  He really enjoyed it and I really enjoyed watching his mind work and how he plays around with different operations and math concepts in his mind and thinks out loud to get to the answer.  It's really inspiring to watch someone enjoying the learning process. 
Here are a few links that combine mathematical concepts with art and even some metaphysical thinking. - learning about the world, mathematics and art by folding circles.  So in case you have an extra pack of paper plates handy and enjoy paper folding, this is a great site with a lot of circle art inspirations to keep one occupied for a nice long time(see the gallery). - a wonderful website with patterns and techniques, downloads and teaching ideas for making beautiful (and mathematical) string art.
Pinbroidery - a take off on the nail and string art, by applying these techniques to card making.  Beautiful project ideas that could also be tied to mathematics.

Teaching children

Today was the usual maelstrom of running around, playing, reading, cooking, baking, answering questions, etc. We actually managed to do a project together, a table setting place mat, everyone was very enthusiastic.  I am seeing a new dynamic more and more, of bigger children taking care of and helping the smaller ones.  Today they, the bigger and more experienced ones, decided to take it to a whole new level.  They decided they want to teach the younger ones things.  They said it will still be like game but they will also learn real things.  So the older one was busy organizing some folders, copying worksheets, etc.  He lamented that he would really like to have some sort of a guide on how to teach the young ones.  I volunteered my expertise.  So there was a whole lot of activity going on, a lot of blackboard erasing, contemplation by the novice teachers on how to handle behavioral issues and how to teach students  at different  levels of knowledge and skill.   But it got me thinking.  It seems that kids not only have a natural propensity to learn things provided a conducive environment but they also seem to have a natural propensity to share what they've learned with someone.  Whether by spontaneous narration, as a performing art (for willing and unwilling audiences) or in play.   It looks like both teaching and learning are part of this organic whole, woven into the fabric of family living.  Interesting!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Hands-on chinuch link

Here is a very interesting link to Rabbi Jonathan Rietti's thoughts on education, giftedness, chinuch and his Montessori inspired hands-on chinuch program.  Very interesting!!!

Craft: A really snazzy looking 3D picture

Here is a link to a really great craft- a really snazzy looking 3D picture made with materials  found around the house.  I can't wait to try this one.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Great Expectations

What am I trying to accomplish or what is all this for? I think that any parents who ever considered their child's education seriously has asked themselves this question.  Put another way,  what is the broader purpose of education besides the obvious acquisition of certain skills and facts?  And while we are on the subject of asking questions, then let's throw in a few more.  Why are so many educational theories so hung up on teaching classics or classics caliber material?   Really, on a different plain the question of why are Jews so obsessed with the Torah and the centrality of Torah learning to Jewish observance, is really the same question as the above ones.  So here is what I think the answer is and how all of the above fit together.  Education is ideally a process of introducing the child to the broader picture of how life and all its various manifestations work.  It's about teaching the child how to think, how to approach life, how to analyze things.  Teaching the classics, however one would define them, gives one access to how great minds thought, analyzed and saw the world around them.  And it teaches one to apply the same thinking processes, to use the same language to access this dimension of certain thinking sophistication, learned by example.  Torah is our access point to G-d's mind, it gives one the true picture of reality, it teaches one the nuanced language of deeper reality and how one must relate to it. My husband helpfully pointed out that Jacques Barzun, a non-Jewish intellectual of renown, remarked that intimate knowledge and understanding of the Bible provides one with the necessary framework to be able to think about any conceivable question or problem (See the end of 5th chapter of Pirkei Avos).  He says that  the reason why people now find it hard to understand why the Bible played such a crucial role in the thinking of the previous generations is because they do not read it and don't know it.  This would also explain how a person could become quite educated, well-spoken, etc. in the days of yore, having access only to the Bible and possilbly just a few other good books.  Human beings are endowed with the ability to aspire to greatness and to be great.  But one only gets to greatness by thinking big ideas, by aspiring to great things, not in an egotistical kind of way but in a transcendental one. So I think, the true goal of education, is not to create geniuses, or to stroke parental egoes but to help our children achieve their potential by inspiring them to greatness, to love of learning, to thinking big, to value and aspire to excellence.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Craft: Easy Snowflake suncatchers

Here is a link to a nice craft that looks like it has a lot of creative potential.

Jewish mother links

It's been somewhat chilly here and every day I find myself reminding and cajoling and explaining why people have to dress for the weather.  Which always reminds me of a joke, that a sweater is something that you wear, when your mother is cold.  Anyway, I just wanted to link to a few excellent posts by fellow blogging Jewish mothers that had insights on the subject of motherhood.  It's also quite late here and this Jewish mother can't squeeze anything else out of that tired brain of hers:)
Aviva Werner on Developing Her Parenting Approach
Chana Jenny Weisberg on her evolution as a mother

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Woodworking, repurposing project: Bed to bench

Here is something I've been dreaming of doing for a while.  A bed to bench project and I've just happen to have some old wooden bedframes I'd really like to play with.  Here are quite a few inspirations and variations on the theme.

The goings on

Winter has come to Israel at last.  We've had some much needed rains to everyone's delight, but the sudden colder weather has us all under the weather, complete with sniffles, coughs, etc.  Apparently, the cold has effectively clugged up my brain as well with a major writer's block, where I have a hard time writing even with a long list of things I was hoping to write about this week in front of me. Sigh.  On the bright side, the eight year old had a eureka moment, where he finally realized that he knows how to read in english quite well, as I've been telling him for months, all to no avail. But now he is very excited to put his "newly" acquired skill to practice and get better at it.  The four year old is convinced she knows how to read because she can recite quite a few books from memory, which she does with great enthusiasm to the just as enthusiastic seven months old.  The three year old had been horsing around and giving all her siblings a run for their money.  But often I find her snuggled up with a book in various places around the house.  She too goes around quoting from stories, books and songs she's heard.  The seven years old has been doing his work nicely and really feels accomplished whenever he finishes something  completely or does something well.  I've been hoping for this for a while, so that's quite nice to see him self motivated to do things well.  His math and writing are progressing nicely but english reading needs major work.  I am looking into some new approaches for him.  The seven moths old is starting to sit up, something he really enjoys.  I've discovered that onion juice drops are a great remedy for ear aches and everyone, even those without ear aches enjoyed warming their ears up with baked onion leaves wrapped in napkins.  There has been a lot of imaginative play, singing, dancing, reading.   We watched some how things are made videos online.  There has been a lot of acting out and complaining, having exhausted their good behavior quotas and having exhausted parents and needing some extra excitement, I guess.  I've been reading a lot, thinking a lot, fantasizing about all the projects I'd like to have done had I not been sick, enjoyed practicing my new picture taking techniques.  Things have not been as orderly as I would've like but, to my surprise, I cooked and baked, so thankfully the food situation was good, despite colds, tiredness and needy children.    It's amazing to see how everything is turning green here, even with sporadic rainfall.  And it's nice to see the kids blossom and get things, after a lot of hard work, doubts and false starts, to really see that things are progressing, even if ever so slowly.  It really gives one hope and motivation to keep on going, even on the days where everything goes kerplop.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Crafts: A Button Monogram Art

Here is another great project that looks like it could be very child friendly.  Bring out those buttons!  Thanks to for the last two craft ideas posted in her Craftschooling sunday. 

Craft: Faux Stained Glass

Here is another great craft project from Suzy's Artsy Craftsy Sitcom blog- faux stained glass.  I love stained glass, can't wait to try this one out.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Interesting lunches

I've been meaning to write a food related post for a while.  But like everything else around here, it took me sometime to get to it. So, I was all geared up to write about frugal cooking and healthy eating when something caught my interest when I was looking for some craft related thing.  Enter the Bento.  Apparently Bento is a lunch in a box popular in Japan.  Practically, what this means is a box lunch somewhat artistically arranged, using different colors and textures and foods, utilizing cookie cutters, dough presses and other food decorating gadgets, as well as muffin cups and other little containers to make everything pretty and interesting and exciting for kids or adults.  Now, I do not like fads of any sort, it's completely unrealistic for me to make this kind of a thing for every member of my family on regular basis, plus there is no way in this family of big eaters with high metabolisms, that anyone no matter of what age or of seemingly diminutive frame would ever be satisfied with 3 carrot sticks or a muffin sized portion of anything despite its' aesthetic value.  But I can certainly tell  a good project idea when I see one and the kids would definitely enjoy making or receiving something like this for a special occasion, like a birthday or Rosh Chodesh.  It also might be a good way to introduce some extra healthy foods to the reluctant, skeptical and conservative.  So in the end of the day, I am happy I made an acquaintance of the Bento and now I can also enjoy thinking up ways to make it frugal :)

Two catapults

While we are on the subject of making things, here are two catapult designs, handy and scientific:)
Here and here.  

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A handmade balance beam idea

Here is a link for a handmade balance beam idea from Chasing Cheerios.  Looks like a nice and straightforward woodworking project for the handy.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Picture book favorites

Recently, I read an article about how picture books sales are down these days.  I was very surprised and later on read an article refuting the previous article.  But whatever the case may be, here we love picture books and on any given day there are always children and adults engrosed in one picture book or another.  So,  I figured I'd write a post on a few of our favorite.  We love books with beautiful illustrations, preferably with lots of details that they could study again and again.
Franklin the turtle series by Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clark - Here is a Canadian picture book series which I discovered when my oldest was a toddler.  It has wholesome, simple stories that relate to scenarios from a child's experience, it teaches good middos, it has beautiful, bright, detailed illustrations.  These are very sweet books, a pleasure for children and parents. I am talking about the original series not a later far inferior TV knock off.  We love these books here.
My kids love all the Gadi Pollack illustrated parable series and all the Rabbi Baruch Chait middos series and other big illustrated books.  these are not only interesting to look at but contain quite a lot of information and teach good lessons.
The Water Hole by Graeme Base  - a beautifully illustrated book, very cleverly done, a witty counting book with an I spy element and touches on geography as well.
Roxaboxen by Alice Mclerran and illustrated by Barbara Cooney, a nice story about imaginative play, with lovely illustrations.
They love I spy and Can you see what I see books.
Blueberries for Sal and Make way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
Frog and Toad series and Uncle Elephant by Arnold Lobel
James Herriot Treasury for Children
 Artscroll Children's Megillah and Artscroll Children's Hagaddah with illustrations by Tova Katz.
Michoel Muchnik books
Shabbos is Coming by Ruth Lipson
Yossi and Laibel books by Dina Rosenfeld
The Mimi and Simi books by Yaffa Ganz
Then I Got Three Scoops by Getzel
Maria Rius science picture books
Look A Snowflake by Janet Craig
Random House Picturebacks by Judy Dunn about rabbits, kittens, puppies
Richard Scarry books- Cars and Trucks and Things that Go, Tinker and Tanker, The Best Word Book Ever
These are just off the top of my head and what I see scattered around the living room.  They like looking at art books, beautiful landscapes, animal pictures, various illustrated word books, interior design books, craft books and gardening books among others.  I wrote about some more books in my science posts. I think picture books are a very important part of childhood and education and forming the child's worldview.  I can't imagine why picture book sales should be down.  Even with the internet, it can't replace the old fashioned technology and the enjoyment children derive from picture books.

Craft: Branch Forest

Here is a link to a very simple craft with a lot of playing possibilities and something that could be good woodworking practice. 

Craft: Alphabet Magnets

Here is another great craft, easy enough for kids to do and which can  be an educational tool and which will look nice on your fridge. You can  use this idea for numbers too.  Alphabet Magnets

Craft: A really amazing faux metal wall art

I love wrought iron wall art, so here is an amazing looking one to make on the cheap, out of toilet paper rolls. Wow!

Craft: Another cute dollhouse craft link

According to my  local crafting enthusiasts, one can really never make too many doollhouse crafts.  So, here comes another one and a very easy to make kid friendly one. Enjoy!!!

A thank you note

Sometimes I get overwhelmed with all the things that need to get done and all the things  I would like to get done.  My brain is overflowing with ideas for this and that.  The voice inside my head just keeps on going with its' never ending prompts of "you should've" and  "why didn't you" and "when will you already" and "will it ever"  or "will they ever".  But there is also another quieter voice there that broadcasts a different message.  That voice says that "Look, they are happy, they like to learn, they are nice to each other a lot of the time, they are growing in so many ways, they are not spoilt, they want the right things, the house is reasonably clean, the meals are usually served more or less on schedule, all that, despite the tiredness, the burnout, the never ending litany of the other voice, the world is full of great ideas, of inspiration, of many books yet to be read, of new discoveries to be made, of new heights to be reached.  So when this happy voice makes itself heard I feel content and confident that I am walking the right path and so very thankful to the One who makes it all possible and all the ones that serve as his emissaries to deliver all the messages I need to hear and the lessons I have to learn.  Then, my eyes open up to all the beautiful things that go on each day, all the little steps in the right direction, all the glorious gifts that sometimes go unnoticed in the humdrum moments of living.  So here is to a thankful living!!!
As I was contemplating this post, I read this beautiful article expressing similiar sentiments linked to  Enjoy!!!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The goings on

"Mommy, what brocha do you make on being scared?".  This and many more questions from the four year old.  I could barely keep up with her.  She is really on the go with everything.  We are making some progress with the alef-beis. We have been doing a lot of different math lately, mostly drill, but also some geometry like perimeter and area, alternating with written and oral depending on the day.  We've done some writing practice.  Handwritings do seem to be improving. has some really great worksheets for math and other things and is useful for drill. We watched some deer outside and discussed deer habits. Looked at how things are made book and read about energy and such.  We could see the effects of rain as everything is beginning to turn green.  We talk about water conservation.  The almost three year old will now be the three year old and everyone has been busily planning for her birthday party.  I had to put some breaks on the grand ideas for the birthday bash.  But the kids made some cards and decorations and colored pictures for her birthday book.  We made a little Tu b'shvat project. There is still a lot of pretend and dress-up games going on.   The boys are into singing lately, so there is al ot of music and singing along.  We listened to some classical music.  We are rediscovering some of the old book favorites that the younger set is now ready for. There is constant running around and lots of ball playing and occasional bike riding. There were various minor health issues, bruises and scrapes and bumps. We now have a  play/family room where before was a guestroom/office/dump everything room. Everyone is very excited about it and it does seem to help keeping everything more organized. It's a very pleasant room where everyone seems to like being.  It needs work but even as is it's already good. There were the usual discussions on current events, history, etc. Overall, things have been somewhat hectic with everyone behaving accordingly. I am hoping we can get some more projecting done, once it calms down.   I need to get more reading material for the older kids and in general do some more relaxing activities like baking or gardening.  I am just really tired but tired or not, learning takes place anyway and hopefully things will get better.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A homemade obstacle course

Here is a link for a great idea on how to make your own obstacle course and no, I am not referring to my living room:)

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Classical literature link

I have revisited the today.  It's a site dedicated to introducing today's children to yesterday's classics.  They have lots of old children's books covering many subjects: history, nature, science, literature, which you can read entirely online or purchase from  You have to pre-read everything just to make sure because some things are decidedly not suitable (or edit as you go for younger kids) but I saw quite a few books there that appeared fine for Jewish children from a cursory review.

Crafts: Dying Buttons and other plastic things

Here is an interesting link for dying buttons, feathers, etc. which can then be used for other crafts.  I am thinking of trying it out with different dyes like paints, using recycled cans so as not to ruin pots, it even sounds like a scientific experiment in the making:) Before I get rid of any clothes too worn out to be passed on, I usually cut off the buttons. So I should have quite a collection.  Looks like they will come in handy now.  So there you go, another example  of frugal crafting with what you have.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

What I like about Charlotte Mason education

I've been wanting to write a post on what I like about Charlotte Mason education for a while and why it could work well with Jewish education.  So here is a synopsis. 
a) Educating towards excellence by introducing the child only to the materials of highest quality and expecting excellence in their work.
b)Developing appreciation of nature through nature study and lots of outdoor time.
c)Developing  appreciation of beauty and attention to detail.
d)Short lessons suitable for young child's attention span.
e)Using living books, no twaddle.
f)Teaching with an eye on the big picture,  trying to introduce big ideas not just facts.
g)Very books based.
h)Handiwork that is aimed at developing particular skills and making something which is obviously useful and ideally beautiful.
i)Appreciation of history, again with the eye on the big picture.
CM education provides a rich framework, and while she herself had particular materials and books in mind, it's very adaptable to one's needs i.e. you can really plug in what you feel is appropriate, high quality, meaningful, etc.  So while most CM information online is provided with a very christian slant, the above points are infact very consistent with Jewish thought.  This inherent flexibility also makes it suitable for different types of kids, not just the very academic types. So just to go through the list in more detail. Obviously, we should strive for excellence to the best of our abilities and educate our children to do the same.  We should appreciate the beauty and grandeur of the world that G-d created.   Suitable art is not so difficult to find in the internet age even though one would have to make one's own collection and one could really use picture study techniques with any picture, painting or photograph one considers worthy.  We are encouraged by our sages to teach our children in the manner suitable to them.  Again, one has to be selective but one could find suitable living books that meet Jewish religious standards.  Both written and oral tradition of learning is very much part of traditional Jewish education.  And appreciating and learning from history is a Torah value and one can learn general history as it relates to Jewish history.   Narration and copywork could both be done in a Jewish context, with Jewish content, as well as the acceptable secular one. Handiwork can be organized around holidays, family events and such.  And of course, Jewish education is very much about thinking and ideas and the big picture, not just acquiring facts.  So this is why CM education appeals to me and why I try to incorporate some of these ideas in learning with my kids.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

On hebrew language and love of Israel

Here is link to a very nice article by Caroline Glick on hebrew language and the love of Israel. 

Jewish learning and inspiration link

Here is a another great resource for Jewish learning and inspiration. Shavua Tov!!! Enjoy!!!