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.