Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Torah Codes - an interesting link and project idea

Here is something that is very interesting and can make an exciting project for an older child or an adult for that matter, who likes history, computer modeling and mathematics, particularly probability and statistics.  Our sages teach us that everything is in the Torah.  Apparently not just metaphorically speaking either.  There is a Jewish tradition going way back that there are things and events encoded in the Torah text if one counts equidistant spaces between letters, etc.  A number of years ago Bible codes made quite a splash when with the aid of computers all kinds of historical events were found encoded in the Torah.  I even know someone who got interested in Judaism and ended up converting because of a TV program she saw on Bible codes that sparked her interest.  The above site is very thorough.  It explains the scientific side of things, answers questions and lists many examples.  It's really quite impressive.  One does need to be able to read hebrew to fully appreciate the examples given though.  Interesting stuff!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pesach, rain, funerals...

It's hard to believe that Pesach is over.  I always find the transition back from the holiday challenging. In many ways it was very uplifting but there was also pain this year for both erev Yom Tovs had a funeral on it.  Right before  Pesach started, Daniel Viflic died of his wounds.  So in addition to the usual bedikas chometz there was a funeral to attend and a shiva visit the next morning.  Alas, the second erev yom tov was once again marred by another Jew's murder.  Ben Yosef Livnat was murdered by a PA "policeman" at Joseph's Tomb for praying while Jewish at a Jewish holy site.  The Arabs celebrated by desecrating this site yet again.  A preview for all those obsessed with establishing a terror state on Jewish land.  More on that later.  But it was also a very beautiful and uplifting Pesach with children singing around the table, good food and company and a few local outings.  Beautiful weather and rain, so unusual for this time of the year.  Perhaps another flow of blessing to comfort the Jewish people, perhaps the very heavens weeping over our national pain.  I read some interesting and inspiring books over Pesach - Rabbi Reisman's  In the Footsteps of the Prophets,  Rabbi Soloveitchik's Fate and Destiny and started Rabbi Eisemann's Haazinu book, I forget its' name.  All very meaningful and inspirational and timely.  We went on a local outing with the kids, it was really nice as always.  I love hikes and the scenery is out of this world.  I'll try to post some pictures later.  We had some family visiting us and we visited some family.  It was really special and there was lots of excitement.  We had lots of good conversations on many subjects but the usual lessons were on hold.  I cooked and cooked and cooked and cooked.  The kids surprised me by liking the healthier things I made as well as the usual favorites.  I think I'll write a separate post on the subject.  Now that all the Pesach things are put away and the excitement and the upheaval dies down, I hope we can get back to our routine and all the things that I put on the back burner until after Pesach.   Yes, Pesach is over.  Now as we count down to Shavuos, it's time to grow and build and push ourselves to new heights and learn and learn and learn.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The goings on

We've been very busy with all the Pesach preparations.  Despite all the chaos and stress, we did have quite a few great family times.  There was a lot of free and imaginative play in between all the cleaning and they even fit a mock wedding in, don't ask.  Academically, we've gotten more on track lately.  The boys are doing very well with the Italics Beautiful Handwriting for Children.  The kids never cease to amaze me, the almost nine year old, who had such a hard time in the past with all things hand-eye coordination related is doing really well and is even motivating himself to move into cursive sooner and then on to calligraphy, thank G-d.  I am very happy with the Math Mammoth worksheets that we are using for math, the kids seem to like them and are understanding and applying the concepts taught.  I bought some student electrical circuit kits.  The boys really enjoyed those, especially the almost nine years old who has discovered his technological/mechanical side lately.  I am hoping to encourage that.  The boys went to the zoo.  They are making progress in their reading as well.  There were lots of discussions about the current events.  Geography is very much part of our daily lives as things come up.  We also had some discussions about various medical matters, mostly terror attack inspired, sigh.  I am hoping to do more formal stuff with the younger set after the holidays.  We had a good coloring session but we were just too busy for anything more involved on the project front.  I am hoping once the holiday is over there will be more time for things like that.  I'd really like to do some drawing lessons with the crew as well.  I feel with everything that is going on personally and nationally, I am constantly in a state of emotional overload.  I am very tired but the kids give me many reasons to smile every day, G-d bless them.  We made some really hilarious home videos of our baby in his jumper thing bouncing up and down to everyone's encouragement. I am sure we'll be playing around more with that.  I love the fact that one can really fit in so much learning even when short on time, even in a course of a very busy life.  I am looking forward to Pesach and right now trying not to get too overwhelmed with everything.  We are having some family visits over the  next week and everyone is very excited.  The kids got a few small things in a shekel store, as well as some new clothes.  I am pleased that it is so simple to make them happy and that all things considered they are really a sweet and unspoiled bunch, B"H.  Chag Kasher v'Someach to all !  I am not sure how much I'll be posting till after Pesach!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Prayer for Daniel

Yesterday I took the big boys shopping for some clothes and shoes for Pesach.  It was really nice to spend some time with just the two big ones and we were successfull in our quest and B"H found everything we needed fairly easily and the boys were happy and we were all in high spirits.  The shopping center was bustling with all the holiday shoppers and lots of kids were around with one parent or older sibling supervising and keeping the young ones out of the house so all the necessary preparations could take place at home.  So we entered a local clothing store and got to work trying to find a right sized suit for my oldest and then it happened.  There was a sound of a  loud explosion outside.  For a moment everything stopped as tense and worried faces turned towards the door and listened. There was a question mark on every face! Then not hearing any screams or ambulance sirens everyone breathed in relief and returned to the task at hand.  Perhaps it was just a construction related blast or maybe a chefetz chashud (a suspicious object) or...   Thank G-d, a false alarm.  But a week ago when an anti-tank missle slammed into a schoolbus it was no false alarm.  Minutes before the bus driver let off the last of his charges and then it was just him and the son of his family friends, whom he was giving a ride to.  Daniel, 16 was just going to visit his grandmother before the holiday, it was vacation after all.  He never made it there.  Today he is in a deep coma, his condition is extremely grave, having sustained heavy trauma to his head and the rest of his body, there is nothing else modern medicine can do for him.  In short, Daniel needs a miracle.  Daniel is my neighbour's son, his family lives on my block.  This whole week there are many prayers and tehilim being said for him. We all check for updates on his condition.  His family has asked the public here and abroad to pray for their son and do things as a merit for his complete recovery.  So please pray for Rafael Daniel  Ariyeh ben Tamar.  May the same G-d that performed miracles for the Jewish people when he saved us and took us out of Egypt, perform another one and restore Daniel to full health and may it be a truly joyous and miraculous holiday for us all, without it being marred by anguish and pain and terror.

Another Fantastic Pesach Cleaning Idea

I had to post something just before I collapse for the night, it being after 1AM and all.  This link was posted in the comments on on how to encourage your kids to help clean for Pesach.  A pre-Pesach treasure hunt, where  little treats are left at the bottom of some predetermined location needing some cleaning.  What  a brilliant idea! Mothers can be so creative!  I think this will definitely get some kids I know excited.  But forget the kids, I can use a treasure hunt like that myself, especially at some unearthly hour:) There, I found something quick and useful to post after all.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pesach coloring pages

Mercifully the printer has regained its' equilibrium and so here are a few links for some great Pesach coloring pages that we enjoyed.  The kids were all excited and got to work with their crayons, pastels and watercolor pencils.  These are the links to the best Pesach coloring pages that I've found.
Here are three links to coloring pages from, and Torah Tots.  And here are some really wonderful coloring pages from Akhla that my kids really liked.  Also, here are some more Hagaddah coloring pages plus some rhymes to explain what's happening.  Just right to keep the kids occupied in between the cleaning and shopping, etc. One can also work in some discussions on relevant subjects while the kids are coloring or before or after - history, the meaning of different parts of the Seder, Divine Providence vs. free choice, Antisemitism,  ancient Egypt, etc. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Towards a meaningful Pesach

Pesach preparations are underway here as we get closer and closer to the holiday.  I don't usually start months in advance as some do.  Because with many  little children and my current living quarters, it's just not practical or realistic to do that.  We don't do spring cleaning either, only the necessary cleaning for
Pesach, see Rav Scheinberg's Cleaning list here.  We are starting to do some food and other shopping too.  The kids were enthusiastic about coloring some Pesach coloring pages to decorate the room, if only I could get my printer to work:)  They were very enthusiastic about cleaning. So we turned on some Pesach music - a Children's Village of Jerusalem fundraiser CD from years back and got to it.  The older ones helped, the little ones played and are now learning the words to all the different Haggadah songs as an added bonus.  We love Pesach here and try to make it as beautiful as possible.  Not perfect but enjoyable and meaningful,  I hope.  As always we try to keep it simple. I don't think any major Pesach projects are going to happen this year.  There is just too much going on, but one never knows.  I also try to get something every year to make the Seder more beautiful, a new table cloth or napking rings or something for the table.  This year I got some new couch covers, we needed some anyway and it will make the room look more royal for the Seder.  The kids already put in requests for favorite Pesach delicacies.  I don't mind getting new illustrated Hagaddahs for the kids, over the years we acquired some really beautiful ones and it makes things come alive for the children and makes the Seder more meaningful for them and us. I am looking forward to looking at the whole collection once we bring out all the Pesach things.   I finally sat down with the little ones and we went through the Artscroll Illustrated Haggadah with them, explaining all the different parts of the Seder, speaking about the pictures, singing the different songs, etc.  I worried if I managed to get in as much information as I wanted and if I got the right ideas across.  But then, I listened to Reb. Tziporah Hellers lectures on how to make Pesach meaningful for children(see bottom of post) and even though my presentation wasn't quite as dramatic as her's,  based on what my daughter said I could tell that the message of that G-d was there and that He cared and that He is stronger than our oppressors and can do anything and that in the end there is justice( listen to the lectures for more on the subject) did get through.  In general, I found the experience of going through the Hagaddah with the children very moving as some parts really spoke to me like never before.  The messages were really timely too.  That's the beauty of the Seder, discovering new layers of meaning year after year in the familiar words and rituals.  I am sure things will continue to be very busy and at times chaotic and stressful but then there will be excitement as we put away the regular dishes and bring out all the pesach boxes and I hope there will be joy and meaning and freedom and redemption as we celebrate this important holiday. Chag Kasher V'Sameach!!!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Some Pesach(Passover) inspiration

Here is an excellent article from Sara Yocheved Rigler putting the suffering and redemption intertwined in the of Pesach (Passover) story into perspective.  Very timely too, considering all the goings on in the world vis-a-vis the Jews.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Crafts: Vegetable Fabric Dyes

Here is something I'd really love to do once things settle down around here.  Read, after Pesach.  In the past the kids really enjoyed any project that required dying of any sort.  So this project from, fabric dying with vegetables,sounds like something we might really enjoy.  As an added bonus this is definitely educational, counts as science, one can mix history into this as well, because this is how fabrics were dyed once upon a time and it's frugal too, etc. I am really looking forward to this one.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Another day in Israel

Today a  neighbour knocked at my door.  She was asked to pass along a message to pray for Daniel Aryeh ben Tamar. She said he is a son of the relatives of someone we both know.  There's been another bombing in the south.  The extent of his injuries are unknown.  I feel my heart drop, as the usual mixture of terrible saddness, pain, dread and anxiety envelops me.  Also anger.  A little later, more details emerge.  The boy is in critical condition, an anti-tank missle deliberately shot at a schoolbus.  Again, the enemy deliberately goes after our children.  I wasn't expecting much outrage from the world out there. There wasn't much, as expected.  Another neighbour knocked at my door.  They are organizing Tehilim(Psalms) because of the terror attack.  My friend assigns me some prokim(chapters) to say.  Uncannily they are all about justice and G-d paying back our enemies, about faith, about love, about return of the Jews to Zion, about G-d's protection, about redemption and joy and song at the end of the road.  I didn't have to write it, King David wrote it with holy inspiration long ago.  It is a great comfort to me.  Another sweet reminder from Upstairs.  The Guardian of Israel neither slumers nor sleeps.  It also reminds me that those are all the lessons contained in the Pesach Hagaddah.  It's Nissan, the month of the Geula and all the spiritual forces are at work to bring us to that place.  May it come speedily and with mercy! Another day in Israel.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Spell by Color Spelling Lessons

Spelling is important but children might balk at the usual mindnumbing way it's taught.  So here is a link to a series of lessons on spelling for early elementary students from a homeschooling family that uses colors to help children remember various spelling rules. 

Crafts: A lunch bag

I've been eying this oilcloth project for a while and it just occurred to me that it might be a good and useful project for this pre-Pesach period, when everyone is cleaning and it would be very nice indeed to send the kiddos out with one of these while one tries to chase the leaven out of the house.  So here is a whole lovely round-up of lunch bags from to go and make, if one has time and inclination at this busy, busy junction:)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The soda recipe and homemade Snapple

Here is the Penniless Parenting post I used for my soda inspiration.  I checked out the original spruce beer recipe she links to also.  But in the end,  I just made my regular lemonade recipe - 11/2 c sugar, 1c lemon juice and about 1.5 L water in a recycled iced tea bottle and added about a 1 tbsp of baking yeast.  Let it stand overnight until the bottle became hard and that was it.  It was a bit too sweet for me but the kids liked it.  And next time, I'd probably put less yeast and leave it out longer but I was pressed for time, it being Friday afternoon and all:)  I think I'd like to attempt ginger ale next using similiar technology.  In the past, I also made homemade Snapplelike iced tea, by mixing about a quarter of 1.5 liter bottle of nectar/fruit juice of choice with regular tea ( a couple of tea bags, hot water, sweetened to taste) to fill the remaining 3/4 of the 1.5 L bottle.  It came out very good also.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Some printable hidden picture puzzles

I used to love these hidden picture puzzles as a child.  Here are a whole lot of printable ones from Highlights magazine.  It might be a good introduction to the art of various children's books illustrators as well.

Food adventures

I like to experiment in the kitchen.  So here are two latest ones.  Experiment number one was polenta.  I've been wanting to try it out forever.  Healthy, simple and frugal, what could be better? It came out very good.  The problem was that only my four year old and I were enthusiastic about it.  Everyone else didn't care for the look, texture, etc.  So no more  polenta for now.  Then there was experiment number two.  I am not a soda fan.  Chemicals, coloring agents and too much sugar are not my idea of a food staple.  But I saw a recipe that used yeast to fizz up a homemade concoction.  So if only for the scientific thrill, I had to try it out.  To my surprise it worked out very well as far as science and as far as taste, it was a runaway success with the kids this past Shabbos.  So I'd like to play around more with different flavors for a repeat performance.  Meanwhile there is a whole list of frugal and healthy and exotic recipes I am itching to try at  like the injeras -Ethiopean flatbread or the beet kvass or the various chicken soup variations.  I am definitely looking forward to more experiments, what with all the flour I need to use up before Pesach and then there is Pesach itself, where some creativity in the kitchen might come in handy.

Crafts: A magnetic garden

Here is  really neat project that uses magnets.  I love magnetic projects and you can make it into a botany lesson if you wish for an extra bonus:)
A magnetic flower garden

Crafts: A faux tiffany style lamp and crayon batik

Here are two links to very beautiful art projects which don't require exotic materials but look fabulous.
The Crayon Batik
Faux Tiffany

Monday, April 4, 2011

Some great resources for geography, spelling, grammar and more

This is shaping up to be a resource sharing week even though I didn't quite plan it that way. But I came across lots of great stuff in my browsing adventures of the last couple of days.  So here they are.
Some really great geography activities - 3 years worth of geography club activities from the National Council for Geographic Education.  Obviously these can prove to be useful in your own home geography club.  I took a look at a few of suggested activities and I really liked what I saw.
If you are the type who likes to design your own curriculum rather than buy  a ready made one.  I read about a series of Design-a-study guides by Kathryn Stout that covers many subjects such as spelling, composition, math, history and science for a wide range of ages.  So I was very excited to discover that quite a large portion of each of these is available for viewing on Google Books here.
For some grammar inspiration here are six grades worth of printale workbooks from Scott Foresman Reading.
DIY Writing Curriculum - some guidance on how to teach good writing.

Naturally all of the above just lead you to more interesting links and ideas.  Happy learning !

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A promising math curriculum - Math Mammoth

I think I finally found a math curriculum that I like -  I was looking for something that was child-friendly, rigorous, followed a logical progression, was challenging enough and had enough drill without going overboard, wasn't too gimicky, included a lot of mental math and wasn't too expensive.  I know, a long list.  From what I've seen so far Math Mammoth is all of the above and more.  There are plenty of sample pages and more information on each individual module on  I read quite a few favorable reviews.  Some characterized it as happy cross between the best of Singapore Math and Saxon Math.  It also reminds me of Jump math in  its' approach of breaking things down to small understandable steps leading up to complete mastery of a concept.  The curriculum is available in downloadable, affordable individual modules or one could get a complete curriculum.  It's also available in book form.  There are free sample worksheets that one could get for signing up to the site's newsletter.  I am very excited about finding this now, as I was looking for something that will require less assembly time from me without sacrificing the quality.  G-d really sends one things when they are needed.   Hope to use this in the coming week.