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.


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