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.