Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Making it

When my older children were small,  we used to do a lot of craft projects together.  Nothing fancy but it was a regular and generally enjoyable feature of our days.  These days, there is a lot of free style coloring, drawing, painting, cutting and pasting, clay modeling, etc. Eventually, I do hope to get more organized art lessons but for now this model works for us.  What I do want to focus on right now with the kids, are more practical DIY type projects.  I really like those type of projects myself and children take great pride in making useful things for themselves or for the family.  For example, we made this liquid soap together the other day.  It was a relatively short and easy project with something for everyone to do.  Everyone four years old and up participated by either grating the soap, pouring and/or mixing and now usually when given a choice they hands down prefer to use "their" soap.  We also experimented with making jello flavored with ices (based on this recipe) and again the kids participated in the making, the eating and brainstorming for future improvements. So why do I favor these practical projects other than some unrequited nesting instinct still left over from this past pregnancy or the fact that quite a few educational philosophies such as Charlotte Mason and Montessori recommend purposeful activities?  A few reasons really.  One, this is a good way to teach practical skills.  Two, it helps kids and adults to snap out of today's consumerism oriented mentality and into a more producing oriented one.  Three, it teaches appreciation of the simple things in life and the simple ways one can enrich his life and that of others.  It teaches resourcefulness and creativity with what one has and gives one a sense of true accomplishment based on doing rather than owning.  It helps one to reconnect with one's humanity as creative beings we were meant to be. Something that I feel, our great dependence on gadgetry and convenience deprives us of.  And besides everything else, it allows us to do things as a family, further increasing the family cohesiveness and creating a life that is uniquely our own.  So I am really hoping we will be making things here, simple things that don't require too much time necessarily or extravagant ingredients.  These days when everything tends to be commercialized including the simple living and healthy choices, it's really amazing what one can make at home with just a few basic skills.  I think it's a gift I would very much want to give our children, the ability and the privilege to be a producer, to make and to make do, to not be excessively influenced by the world around them to their detriment.  I thinks, especially with Pesach(Passover) coming up, a holiday of freedom, this is an important lesson that will make them free in a higher sense.   G-d willing, I'll write about specific projects I have in mind in the near future.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The goings on

It was an odd kind of a week.  The big kids just didn't seem to be able to settle down to doing their work but we got some basics done. Lots of informal learning though.   I am finally getting to spend some good quality time with the younger kids.   Ds1.5 is really into books all of a sudden.  It is so sweet to watch him play and grow.  Come to think of it, I had some good individual quality times with the older ones as well.  The big boys had their Tae Kwan Do test for the next belt.  It's been very good for them on so many levels - coordination, discipline, etc.  They have a great teacher who really coaches the kids and helps them succeed and learn important life skills like respect, discipline and self defense.  The weather was beautiful and we got to spend some lovely times outside.  We got a little bit of nature study in, when we identified some plants from my medicinal local plants guide in our yard, but more on that later.  There were a few very foggy overwhelming exhausting days.  We made some lists and started getting things for Pesach(Passover).  We are looking forward to the holiday.   The news from Toulouse, France where four innocent Jews, including three children HY"D were murdered was horrifying.  Whenever I hear the word Jew in the same sentence as France,  I just want to scream LEAVE!!! Alas, Europe hasn't changed much.  It's sad, this growing antisemitism, sad but not shocking.  Then, Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg passed away,  a really great person, and while he is undoubtedly in a very good place, it's very sad for those left behind.  Otherwise, the kids had a great time collecting most of the remaining lemons from our tree.  Those lemons smell like heaven.   I see a lot of lemonade in our future and perhaps this citrus cleaner.  Some day when we have a garden of our own, I really hope we'll plant some more fruit trees.  I got some dry erase markers and the kids ( everyone above the age of 1) had a wonderful time writing and drawing on our glass doors, no need for a white board.  I am thinking that using the same idea, one can use a picture frame with glass, insert a page of writing or a picture for tracing and have the little ones practice.   I could never figure out what makes any given Erev Shabbos either wonderful or terrible.  But this one was a dream, B"H.   The babies slept, so we didn't have to juggle crying babies with the frenzied  preparations. Everyone got to help make something.  We baked.  We made mayonnaise again - a recent DIY successful experiment.  I have a long list( too many) of different DIY projects to do with the kids in the coming weeks,  I really hope we'll get to at least some of them.  And so it goes - lots going on, too little writing, perhaps too much planning, hopefully more actual doing and just taking it one day at a time.  Thank G-d!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

On the way to Tel Aviv

Last week we had to go to Tel Aviv to take care of some business.   I love watching the scenery out the window.  It's just amazing.  We were in a bit of a hurry and I forgot my camera but I'll describe what I saw.  I have taken this same trip quite a few times and yet every time, it's an experience.  What one sees is a tapestry of very different things juxtaposed next to each other.  Bucolic scenery next to industrial type structures, archeological digs right in the middle of very ordinary surroundings, beautiful untouched wild spaces next to modern architecture and cultivated agricultural fields.   Orchards next to railroads,  ancient ruins next to modern buildings,  very Middle Eastern next to very Western.  And once one gets to Tel Aviv- old dilapidated buildings next to snazzy slick modern ones, religious and secular, old and new, tightly packed spaces and industrial architecture on one side and the gorgeous blue sea with sailboats placidly gliding in the sun on the other.  I looked up for a second, we were on Kibbutz Galiyot (Ingathering of Exiles) Blvd.  And it got me thinking that this kind of hodgepodge of very different elements in a small space reminds me of the current state of modern Israel.  Different people from different places, yet part of the same nation and with plenty in common. So much already built and so much that remains to be done.   All this in just a few years on the place where sand dunes used to be, amazing!  The Jewish people had come home.  Some things so beautiful and so perfect and some so far from perfection that it makes one's heart ache, some things so clear and some really perplexing.  Will it ever be fixed, will it ever get better, how much more and how much longer can the Jewish nation take it.    And then I remember, we are indeed on the Kibbutz Galiot Blvd.  It will be made right and beautiful and perfect and harmonious in the end.  G-d has His plan and He will get us where we need to go.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The goings on

It's been a very long while. I've been wanting to get back to writing here for so long.  B"H, we are settling into a rythm of sorts. We kept our home learning on the low burner, but kept with it all along, albeit on a very basic level -math, copywork, hebrew reading, writing, grammar and lots of informal learning.  I hope we'll be adding more things on as we get more into the swing of things, like history, geography and art for example.  When the weather is warm, the kids spend lots of time outside.  We are managing to fit in little projects here and there when we can.  We made liquid soap, baked hamantashen twice, made cute little bags out of old t-shirts among others.  I'll try to post some links for these when I can.  I have a year's worth (at least) backlog of things to write about, a very long list of projects to attempt, books to read, a house to organize, etc.  Thank G-d, a lot going on and so much to be grateful for. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Seeing double

And so on one fine candle lit Friday night they arrived - two beautiful baby boys! Identical twins! After all the waiting and praying and hoping, here they were.  Two beautiful infants with starry eyes.  Two sweet heart shaped faces looking up at me. Two more babies to nurse, to cuddle and to rock.  Two voices calling for my attention.  Two new holy souls entering this world on a holy day.  Two new lights to illuminate our life.  These days my arms and my days are very,very full.  So much love, so much joy, yes, so much work.  Juggling these babies and all their siblings in graduated sizes and all the other things on the to do list:)  I really feel a whole lot more than doubly blessed.