Shanah Tovah U’Metuka!

Wow. As I came to log in I had to think for a moment what my login information was. I guess that means it has been too long. The last 9 months have definitely been a change, in many ways, and I am not going to go into detail about it, at least not now. I will say that as the school year ended, I was starting to feel up and up about things and looking forward to my summer. However, as what happens many times in our lives, Hashem steps in to remind us that He is really the one in charge and it has definitely been a crazy, challenging 3 months, on a very different level.

The summer was so crazy that I did not have enough time (only had 3 hours out of the ENTIRE summer – yes, for real…) to work on schedules. Even with only 2 boys to work with, I still need some time. As the weeks of school are rolling along, I finally have a schedule that might work. Time will tell. 🙂

As I dropped off one boy for a Spanish class and one boy for a Chemistry class, I was sitting in the car and realized that I had one hour to myself – no one was there with me! Wow. Should I close my eyes and rest, listen to a shiur? I decided that I was going to have the most satisfaction by typing up a Dvar Torah about a Rosh Hashanah shiur that I heard by Rabbi Mendel Kessin – all typed up on my phone (talk about being desperate!) I have decided to include it here. Feel free to read in between cooking and cleaning or even print it off to read over the chag (holiday.)

Hoping everyone is written in the Books of Life, Success, Happiness, and Health. Shanah Tovah!


Why do we blow the shofar?
(Based on a shiur given by Rabbi Mendel Kessin)

Rabbi Kessin is great at asking questions. Baruch Hashem he is also great at answering them!  He poses several questions with regards to Rosh Hashana.

Why do we blow the shofar on Rosh Hashana? Why do we have a festive meal on the Day of Judgement? How can we dare to be happy and eat? If we can be happy and eat a festive meal, shouldn’t we also say Hallel like we do on Rosh Chodesh and Yom Tov?

Many people will tell you we blow the shofar to confuse the Satan.  If we think for a minute, we know that is not true, for the Satan is very intelligent. He is not dumb. We have been blowing the shofar for thousands of years, after the first few years, you would think that the Satan would have gotten it and not be confused anymore.

No, that is not it. We blow the shofar to remind Hashem of Akeidas Yitzchok – when Hashem told Abraham to go and bring Yitzchok up as a sacrifice.

Why? What does Akeidas Yitzchok have to do with Rosh Hashana?

Hashem told Avraham to take his son and offer him up as a sacrifice – not make him the sacrifice.  However, He purposefully just said that Abraham should bring his son, Yitzchok, up as a sacrifice and left off the end “and bring him back down .”   Hashem wanted Avraham to misinterpret what He said.

Why?When Avraham heard this statement, it brought seven harsh ideas into his mind. Some that I remember are:
– Yitzchok is perfect, he did nothing wrong that needed the punishment of death
– Yitzchok is a person, he cannot kill another person, he did nothing wrong to deserve this
– Yitzchok is a Jew, how can I kill a Jew?
– He is my son, how can I kill my son?
– I am chesed, kindness, how can I be mean and kill someone not deserving of death

Avraham was able to accept 6/7 thoughts (the five listed above and the last I do not remember,) however, it was the 7th one that he had problems with: Hashem promised me a nation will come from Yitzchok, if he is dead, he cannot have children and no nation will come!

To Avraham, Hashem seemed to be acting irrational- when you die, you cannot have children.  This does not make sense. However, Avraham had faith in Hashem and said, “This LOOKS irrational, it looks like it cannot happen, however, whatever Hashem does is good and correct and I must be missing something.” And as we know, Avraham does listen and brings his son up to Har Hamoriah to be sacrificed.

It was never Hashem’s intention to actually have Yitzchok killed, and Hashem stops Avraham at the last minute. Avraham passed the test of thinking he was told to do an irrational thing by putting his trust and faith in the Almighty. Instead, Hashem provides a ram to be sacrificed.

On Rosh Hashana Hashem looks at everything in the world and sees how it is going. Are things going well? Does something need to be changed? Do employees need to be moved around or let go?

It is not so much the sins we have done, but where we are going spiritually.  Are we trying to come closer to Hashem? Yes, our sins do play a role and left to the Satan to be the prosecutor, things would not go well.

It is at this moment that we blow the shofar. We use the horn of a ram (usually) to remind Hashem of the irrational thing that Avraham did in trusting Hashem in face of what looked irrational, and we are asking Him to use midda-keneged-midda, measure for measure, and be irrational with us. When Hashem hears the shofar, He acts irrational and throws out the prosecutor, the Satan, and takes us into His private chambers. He looks at us and says we need to fix some things and because of that we need a few punishments, but this is good for these punishments will fix us and ensure we continue to exist, as a people, and ultimately when our tikkun is done, when we fixed what needs to be fixed, Mashiach will come.

This is why we eat a festive meal on Rosh Hashana. We know that when we blow the shofar, the Jewish nation will continue to exist and not be wiped out. If we are happy, shouldn’t we say Hallel?  No, we are not fully happy. There is still awe when we walk into a courtroom, and still a bit of reservation so we cannot say Hallel.

I hope this brings you all a little bit more meaning into this awesome day!

The Real Life of Homeschooling

Our weekly trip to Starbucks while waiting for his brother in writing class. One of the perks to Homeschooling. 😀

Sometimes when one writes about personal thoughts and feelings and then presses the “submit” button, they wonder if perhaps the information they just posted was TMI (Too Much Information.) All sorts of thoughts go through the mind, “if I take it down now, no one would have read it yet, right?” and “I just blew it, oh well, I guess many people will think less of me now.” I felt this way when I pressed the wonderful “Publish” button on my last post.

You see, the goal of my writings are to help other people. Right now, I am focusing on homeschooling since it is a big part of our lives. With almost a dozen years now (wow!) under our belt, I feel that I do have a little bit of information to hand over. Whether one is actively homeschooling and looking for advice, information, or just seeing that one is not alone, to those who are investigating to see if homeschooling is right for them or not, it is good to be able to get “real” information.

I am not talking about what the regulations are in the area one is homeschooling, what curricula there is out there or even how to write a schedule. I am talking about the REAL information. What really can one expect when they homeschool? I don’t know about what others think, but for us, the stereotypical homeschool family has children who are obedient, do all their lessons, who listen to their elders (i.e. Mother or Father), who understand time and who are almost always never late, and are ahead of grade level.  Oh, and they don’t fight, and they get along with their siblings.

Cough

And yes, I have learned that stereotypes are not always accurate. Have I internalized that, that is the question.

In my writings, amidst the wonderful things that I do believe we have done and learned, there is something called the Real Life of Homeschooling that I try to show sometimes, and that is… we are humans, not robots; we are all unique and different, our personalities are across the entire spectrum and we (the parents) have all lived a different life and have different priorities and experiences, and we are all given different obstacles we have to overcome.

This means that like everything else we do in life, and just like everyone else in the world, we all have our ups and downs. We all have different ways of teaching, different preferences, different kinds of children. No two homeschooling families are the same, and most importantly, no matter how picture perfect a homeschool family is, there are always challenges and things that just do not go like we want. And, a little secret, I would not want to be that picture perfect family for that would be boring. I like my boys for who they are, for all that they bring into our family, and for all the different ways they challenge me and mold me and make me a better person. So, to be fair to my readers, yes, I am biased, I do like homeschooling, and so when honestly asked for advice, I may tend to lean towards others homeschooling, however, I also have to relate some of our hardships. I have to open myself up and show my wounds.

My last post was hard. Homeschooling is not always easy, but then again, nothing is. This year, after 11 years of homeschooling, we sent a boy to school. It was a very difficult decision for me to make. I thought I failed. Then, just a few months later, we were faced with another hard obstacle – we sent a second boy to school (though he is in town, Baruch Hashem!) Can you say that I thought I failed even more? Not just one, but two gone, within a few months of each other. I am now left with only half. I thought I doubly failed.  When I wrote about all the inside feelings that no one ever sees (except my wonderful husband who has been there for me – thank you so much!) how were my readers going take it?  What reactions will I receive? I honestly had no clue. I have to say that I was very happily surprised at the responses I received.

Homeschooling is definitely outside the box, and so much so that most homeschooling families find that they are usually pretty much alone, especially in the religious Jewish setting, though I read today that the number of homeschooling children in the United States doubled from an estimated 850,000 to 1.8 million in just three years (as of 2016 I believe.) We do not have a lot of the “in-person” emotional support that other families have, so we have to fill the needs and gaps online. What I learned was that I was not alone. I learned that there are others who understand my feelings. Other have gone through or going through what I am going through. I learned that I did not fail. Failing would be to see a need is not being met and not doing anything about it. Succeeding is seeing something is not going well and doing everything in your power to change things so things are better, even if it is hard to do.

Being a good parent or teacher is knowing your limitations and finding others who can take over when needed. If I do not know anything about biology or math, even as a homeschool parent, I have no issues looking for someone who does know and can help out. Why is it that I don’t have an issue taking a boy to Algebra class outside of home, even when I can teach it (and have taught it) to my boys with no issues, why is it that I have no problems hiring a Gemara Rebbe for my boys for I know that I know nothing about Gemara, but when it comes to understanding that a child has learned all he/she can learn from me and needs to learn the rest outside, I suddenly have an issue? I cannot do it all, and am not supposed to do it all (that is why two people get married, so they can work together to accomplish so much more, but that is for my other passion!) I guess it is a matter of humbling myself and seeing myself for who I really am, and that is not bad. I think we often feel that if we humbled ourselves we would see all the things not good about us, all the places where we failed, etc. Yeah, they are there, but there are a whole lot of good things in us as well. Unless we humble ourselves, we cannot see those amazing things for the light of arrogance covers it all up. Where am I doing good? What amazing things have I done? We can only see who we really are when we can shed our outer clothing.

My boys are all doing well, where ever they are, at home or school, Baruch Hashem. I am still trying to adjust emotionally and just in general. I am still trying to reorganize my day to make it more efficient for I suddenly found that I have time to do things like think (yes, I can think now!), clean, do laundry, organize, uh, and yes, even take cat naps without worrying about not getting school done (!) however, I just don’t know how to even internalize this fact so it is not really getting done (except for the cat naps, I have NO problems adding them in, not sure why. 😉 ) What does it mean to have time to clean the house and do other tasks other than teach? Believe it or not, it is really hard to figure that one out, and I really do want to do them, it is just that it has been many years since I have been able to effectively do these things regularly that it hard to understand that I have some time now for at least some of them regularly. I find myself sitting down, not sure what to do with myself or walking around like a zombie, even though I know there are tasks for me to do. My lovely husband can’t figure out why I can’t figure it out either. 🙂

I took a chance and showed my pain. This is part of the Real Life of Homeschooling. This is part of what my writings are all about. The good, the bad and the ugly, it is all there. But really, it is all good, it is all meant to be. My goals are shifting and that is fine. Life is a constant change.

To those of you who opened your wounds to help me with mine, my deepest gratitude. Thank you. I hope that some of my writings will help others as well. On and upwards to a new set of days that are as quiet as a house can get with a beautiful Mr. 7 year old! Never old, always changing. Wishing you all your own successes!

Learning to Grow and Change

#3 multitasking for his Cooking Merit Badge.

It has been quite a busy several months. Can’t say there has been too much homeschooling wise to talk about, which is one of the reasons why I have not written for so many long months. However, that means there are lots of pictures I can post. 😀

With Rosh Hashanah, Sukkos, our latest bar mitzvah, the week later my nephew’s bar mitzvah, a few weeks later our yearly Thanksgiving trip, the boys’ camping trip to Big Bend, Chanukah… When did we have time for school? Or, as I am typing, I am thinking that perhaps I can rephrase that: That WAS our schooling, so perhaps there really is something to write about.

I do have stuff to write about, and all those amazing trips really are one of the wonderful

Happy 16th Birthday Mr. Big!

reasons why I love homeschooling for I don’t have to answer to anyone and we really can and do make our lives as much learning as we can. However, that is not the main reason for writing. We will get that those, but there are other things.

Life changes, and we have to learn to adjust to the changes. The past two years have been very challenging for us. Our move down south was definitely not what we had in mind and that is the hard part. I am slowly, very slowly, starting to realize that what I have in mind is irrelevant. I used to think that I was very flexible. If my husband wanted a break and asked me if I wanted to go out with the family for a night to a hotel, I used to be able to pack and be ready in 45 minutes for a wonderful adventure. I am learning though, that yes, I am flexible in some areas, but in others I am not. That is the challenge.

We started the school year with one less boy at home. One boy, who actually hates change, needed so badly to have a change and go off to Yeshiva. Normally I do not believe that children should go away from home for school, however,  I understand that there are exceptions. Our one child is an exception. It took me a long time to get there. I felt I was not trying hard enough, and with a little bit more work, a little bit more proper advice, I could make things work. Yes, I did get some help, and yes, the help really worked, however, it still took me many months to realize that no, I was not a terrible mother, not a terrible teacher, it is just my child is ready for something else. I am happy to report that our child is doing well. He is happy and he is learning. What more can I ask for? He still has a ways to go, but one step at a time and with G-d’s help, he will get there.

I started the year very quiet. The whole house dynamics was so different. It was a good

Saba and Mr. Little.

thing. The other boys started opening up. I now had the ability to see what else was needed in the house. Mr. Little, who is not so little, got to have more of my attention. We are doing pretty much what we did last year – I have my Charlotte Mason for the secular and Melamed Academy for the Judaics. I have to say that the Melamed Academy has come a long way from last year. The older boys have a Rebbe for Gemara and Mishnayos and they have weekly live shiurim they attend. I have added  private tutoring with Rabbi Resnick from Room613.net. The boys have learned with Rabbi Resnick for several years, many years ago, and were really excited when I asked if they would like to have him for their Gemara now. With all that set up, school didn’t seem so bad – until you start adding in all the wonderful Yomim Tovim.

It is hard to keep up with school with all the holidays! But, I cannot complain. Amidst all the spiritual highs, Mr. Boy #3 became a Man. 🙂 Motzei Yom Kippur he had his birthday. Such

Bar Mitzvah Cousins!

a lucky boy he was this year. He was told to eat all day on Yom Kippur until the last 72 minutes and then he had to fast.  We teased him about that. We waited until a few weeks later, Parshas Beraishis, before celebrating for he cousin had his bar mitzvah the next week, Parshas Noach, and we wanted my parents to be able to easily attend both simchas. It definitely was a whirlwind of several weeks. Sukkos, Boy Scout campout again in our sukkah, two bar mitzvahs and lots of wonderful time with family. My parents were excited. I made Saba (Grandpa) learn Chumash with Mr. Little every day. It gave them something wonderful to do. Saba and Mr. Little have a special bond. They love to Skype with each other regularly and read stories to each other. My parents took my boys with them to my sister’s house, leaving my DH and I two days to ourselves!  Thanks to my parents and my sister for babysitting!

I have to say, Hashem heard my prayers and saw my tears this summer. He just decided that my time alone would be better off at a different time when I did not have to worry about making a school schedule. DH took ALL boys (well, all three) to Big Bend to camp for a

Big Bend National Park

week in December. That meant… you guessed it… I was home, All. By. Myself. Just me. 🙂 It gave me that so much needed break. I spent time on the computer the first day. I did not know what to do with myself. It did get cold here that morning, the cold front come through, though Big Bend was one of two spots in the country that was warm. On Monday, I tidied up some of the rooms and started on a deep clean of the coat closet. I had small goals, I knew better. I spent all day Tuesday cleaning the coat closet. I tossed as much as I could out – I still am working on minimalizing my house. It is a slow process. It felt so good to not feel rushed that someone is coming home, and I could just leave things if I was finished for the day and go to bed! Wednesday was my spiritual day. I did make sure I did some reading every day, but Wednesday was my big day. I decided that after the cleaning was done, this was my opportunity to reconnect. With being busy with beautiful boys, it is not usually easy for me to find time, so I made sure I made time. By the time everyone

Big Bend National Park

came home on Thursday, I was ready. I was calm, happy, and felt recharged. And I did not have to leave home, which was the best!

The big thing this year is that we finally got to see what each of the other boys were needing. Mr. Big was not doing well. Our city is big, and there are many religious family here, there are several areas in town. However, the big thing is that it is still a “young” community. There are so many children here. However, the kicker is that they stop at about 13 years of age. After that, there just are not very many kids. Our oldest is now 16 and we asked someone in the know and he could only come up with 3 boys that age. Two are out of town and the other is in a different area of town. There are basically no boys here for him. That is a big problem. That along with other things that have happened created a situation that needed our immediate attention.

This is where I got stuck. We knew what we needed to do though I had a hard time accepting things. I had my head stuck in one direction and could not shift into another

His First Day of Yeshiva!

gear. Our son needed to go to Yeshiva. He did not need to go away from home, but he needed friends. The Yeshiva here has mainly out of town boys with a few in town boys from the other side of town. It was a hard few months for me as I struggled with me and who I was. I was not a failure. From 4 down to 2. It was a hard thing to swallow. I had to swallow my ego and that was not easy. Afterall, I was “That Homeschool Mom,” for the good and not so good. I had to live up to that title, didn’t I?

No.

That is not who I am. I am a mother of 4 beautiful boys and wife to an amazing husband. As a Mother, all I want is the best for my children. If teaching them at home is the best for them, or, at least, the same as sending to them to school, and I want and can teach them, then I will. If there comes a time when something is better, then, as a Mother, I will do my best to make sure they get it. Up until now, homeschooling really was the best for them.

Chanukah with all my boys 😀

Now, after 16 years, my oldest is ready to move on. Baruch Hashem, he has a had a good first week of school and is finishing the week off with a Shabbaton. I would like to think that he appreciates at least some of what I taught him and gave him over the last 16 years,( though, that just might be my ego getting to me again. 😉 ) In many ways, he has a huge advantage over other boys, and he knows it, and in other ways he will catch up really fast. DH and I are very happy with how and what we taught them in their Judaics (as well as secular). They have learned stuff that most boys do not learn and it is stuff that puts them ahead in a big way. Mr. Big is good at perception and I do believe that he understands this. We listened to part of a shiur several weeks ago that stated that he believes that boys should be learning the material that we taught and why.

As we head on over to the second half of the school year, I am finally really excited. I have one boy who insists that he wants to remain learning at home (yeah! I can think that I

Freezing maple syrup on snow!

really am doing at least a little good,) and one boy whom I can give a lot more attention with his learning that he needs over the next few years. OH! And I can’t forget to mention that Mr. Boy #3 passed his Amateur Radio test! Another Kosher Ham in the house! 😀

Things are good. It just depends on if we can train our minds to understand that. Things are slowing down in some ways, which is helpful, so that I can focus my attention on things that need me. I am optimistic that the three of us who are home are going to have lots of fun. 🙂

 

Shanah Tovah U’Mesuka!

kimg1763As the Jewish year is coming to an end, a new school year has already begun. A few weeks ago my Facebook was inundated with wonderful photos of many friends’ Back to School/Homeschool pictures. It was nice to see. I hope that everyone had a wonderful summer and is enjoying the new learning year.

Our summer was not too bad. It was not overly hot like it was last year (we rarely got above 100 degrees this summer, but stayed in the upper 90’s.) It was more humid though, guess it was not hot enough to burn the humidity out of the air. The boys did get to swim many times and kept a bit cool that way. 🙂

The summer is usually the time I get to recharge. When the boys were younger, I used to be able to send them to camp for a week and leave me with just one little one, or, the last

Hiking up Wheeler Peak with their Dad.
Hiking up Wheeler Peak with their Dad.

year or so they went, I had a week to myself during the day. It was really nice. I got to do most of the preparations for the coming year, as well as take the time to do what I wanted, when I wanted it, whether it was doing nothing, going for a walk, or cleaning out a room or just some drawers. We don’t have that luxury anymore to send them to camp, but I would still take a few weeks to do nothing. Just a time to recharge. I don’t mind having them home, they are big enough they usually entertain themselves and I am just here to referee 🙂

That was the plan for this summer as well. It was a wonderful plan! I had a few things I wanted to learn with them this summer, as usual, but

Wheeler Peak. Snow!
Wheeler Peak. Snow!

for the most part, much of the day would be doing not much and letting me focus on re-organizing the house. When we moved in 1.5 years ago, our boxes came from storage basically on Purim. My husband wanted all the boxes out of the house and things “somewhere” before Pesach. I always wanted to move into a house for Pesach, thought it would be wonderful! I spent the entire month emptying boxes. Not quite the move that I was thinking of, but I guess it was not too bad. 😉  I cannot be upset for Erev Pesach, my husband decided to empty just one more box (almost all the boxes were empty, just had a couple more to go,) and found a loaf of bread that the packers said they could not pack, that had been in storage for 7 months. I looked, no mold, and it LOOKED edible. Then I remembered why I don’t normally buy store bread – if there is no mold on it in about 5 days, I don’t want to eat it! What all this meant was that things were placed somewhere, but not really in the homes I wanted. So, the plan was to slowly take the summer, since there was nothing much else to do, and re-organize and minimize (yes, still trying to do that.) Well, you know the saying, “Man plans, G-d laughs.” Yup, that really is a true saying! Though I am trying to reframe my mind and prefer to think that “Man plans, G-d challenges.”

Baruch Hashem nothing bad happened. We all stayed healthy and safe. For that I am very grateful. It’s just that things did not go as planned. It was very frustrating. A week before Labor Day, where many schools wait to start, I broke down. I told my husband it was a

We did get a little school done in the summer. Private tutor for Gemara with Rabbi Resnick.
We did get a little school done in the summer. Private tutor for Gemara with Rabbi Resnick.

week before school, I had not had my break, which was something we had talked about for a few weeks already for I saw I was probably not going to get it with everything that was going on, I had no time to even THINK about school and I *NEEDED* at least one week, but really, really, really, wanted two, but I could make one week work. He tried so hard, but it never happened. “You homeschool, you don’t need to start when everyone is starting, take the next two weeks off!” “I can’t! I am already not teaching the week of Labor Day, I can’t wait any longer. The boys NEED it. They need the schooling.” Yes, technically they could wait, but they were getting antsy with the lack of a school schedule.

A few of you are on my friends list on Facebook and might vaguely recall a posting I made stating that my summer vacation just started at something like 4:32pm the Wednesday or Thursday before Labor Day.  I was so excited! For one day, I did nothing. Nothing. Boy did it feel good.  I was almost guilty. Almost. Not quite. 🙂 But, by the end of the (next) day I was bored and ready to do stuff. Beautiful. Just what I wanted to happen for that meant I would be ready to do what I wanted. Day Two: Back to the old grind. Unfortunately that was all, I did not get the next day. My husband was home on Labor Day and gave me the entire day. I spent the entire day working on school. I got a huge way over. All I can say is Baruch Hashem we are doing Ambleside Online. I think I only had to get 3 books for boys this year for we had all the rest since there is very little consumable stuff we use. And, Baruch Hashem for Amazon Prime. Despite all that help, it still took about 20 hours over that week and the next to get everything all set up. I basically woke boys up the second week in September and handed them their work. I did not even tell them school had started, just “here is your work for today” and off they went. I felt bad for they were not prepared, and neither was I. That first week I kept getting frustrated boys asking “what do I do now, Mom?” It was hard on all of us. But, I felt that was the best. The boys needed to start. It was a hard beginning. I did not get my break I needed, school really started with a bang and then things went flying and we had to catch them. So no, we did not have any Back to School pictures to post.

On another note, we had another huge change we had to get used to. Boy #2 is not at home with us anymore. We have sent him away to Yeshiva. It was time for a change.

Miss him!
Miss him!

Surprisingly, the boy who does not like changes was not only needing it, he was begging for it. He has learned some nice life lessons, such as not spending all his monthly spending money the first 4 days of the month. Oops. 🙂 In general, he seems happy and he has some nice friends. It has taken some time to get used to a school setting, and the homework he has to do each night, but I think he is good. It has left a huge gap here at home though. It is awfully quiet some times. Even when someone is sleeping, you still feel their presence in the house. For someone who prefers no music during school hours for it is usually noisy enough, I was asking the one boy who was up doing school this morning if it would bother him if I put on music. No more boys can leave for a while. I put my foot down on that one. Not sure how long I can keep it down though.

So, as we finally settle down into a routine, and I find out when my quiet times are, for now I have some during the day, I am hoping that throughout the year I can do a little organizing here and some there. I have accepted the fact that I did not get my vacation this year. Well, sort of. Mostly. We have completed enough weeks that the schedule has mostly

Little brother waiting with older brother for time to leave for the plane.
Little brother waiting with older brother for time to leave for the plane.

worked itself out. There are still a few wrinkles, but there always is at the beginning of the year, no matter how prepared I am. I try to look ahead and move on. You can’t hang onto the past, especially when it gets you down. This past week I have managed to get one drawer in the kitchen cleaned out and it has made a noticeable difference, at least to me. I will keep chugging away at it. G-d willing it will get done, just at a different pace than I planned. When these things happen we have to remember our goal is to align ourselves with His goal. Everything He does is for the best, even when we don’t understand.

As Rosh Hashanah approaches and we try to prepare the best we can for our judgement and hopes of a sweet and happy year, we try to do one more mitzvah, one more chesed, give one more bit of tzedakah. While we wash the dishes and the clothes yet again, make one more dish of food in honor of the Yom Tov, or even just a regular day meal, they are all important jobs we are doing. It is all special. In last week’s parsha we learned about blessing that will come or us, or, chas v’shalom, the kimg1759curses that will befall us. We are told the curses will come because we were not happy when we had plenty. Not that we were not happy when times were tough. When times were good we were not happy. My friends, we have a mitzvah to be happy, to be b’simcha! We have more laundry to wash? Baruch Hashem! We have more dishes to clean, have to sweep and mop the floor for the 5th time today? Baruch Hashem! It is not always easy, especially when it seems mundane. Believe me, it is not. Your home is a mini Bais Hamikdash. Just like you would gladly sweep the floors of the real Bais Hamikdash, when you sweep your floors or wash yet another load of laundry, you are cleaning YOUR Bais Hamikdash. When we do His mitzvahs with joy, when we are happy when there is something good that happens, that is when blessings will come to our homes. Hashem is setting out our year for us in just a few days and so it is the perfect time to try to add even one more piece of joy – a piece of thankfulness – to our portfolio. With that one more piece of joy, may Hashem bless you and your family with a Shanah Tova U’Mesuka! May we all be inscribed with all the blessings we need. <3

We Are at Another End

KIMG1701Well, another year is coming to an end. I never really know exactly when we are going to end, it all depends on when I either A) finish the schoolwork at hand, or B) just need to stop. However, I think this year, for the most part, I think we are actually doing both together.  I am quite impressed. For two boys we are down to three books and just a few chapters in each, so we are alternating between the three of them to get them all done. I don’t want to just read several chapters in one book one day and several in another book the next day for that is not the intent of our learning. The idea of Charlotte Mason learning is to give the brain time to sub-consciously think about the previous reading for several days before going on. They are not getting several days in between each chapter of a book, but at least 1-2 days, and two of them go on to different topics each chapter so it is not really that bad.

I have had a slightly easier time overall the last several weeks and it has given me time to do some introspection about how things are going and how to improve. My main concern was that I feel we have been treading water for the last 1.5 years. Yes, the last few months of school we feel that way. I think it is just that we need a change of pace into summer months, however, I have been feeling this way for the last 18 months. There are several things at play, but I have come across one thing that is a big part of it all.

I somehow ran across a website that caught my eye. I started reading it. It had lots of pictures. I was intrigued. It is about a mother of 7 children ranging from 18 months to 11 yrs who went from a *VERY* cluttered home (she posts pictures!) to a home where it can look like Home and Gardens in about 30 minutes of cleanup – the entire house (again, more pictures.) Oh, and when I mentioned this to my sister, her natural reaction was, “but does she homeschool?!?!?!?!” to which was a very fast reply, “YES!” Minimization is the word of the day. You mean to say that a homeschool family of many children really can have a really neat home, almost all the time? I honestly never thought that possible unless one had a housekeeper that came in every day, or every other day at the minimum. Or, unless the children were much older. (And even then there is no guarantee!) So, I started reading.

I have to say, after reading several pages, it really did make sense, and I am at the point right now that I think it is possible in our home as well. I got rid of a lot of stuff before we moved, but when we purchased our home last year and all the boxes arrived, just weeks before Pesach, my wonderful, dear, beloved husband told me to “Just empty the boxes and put everything somewhere!” And me, being the good wife, listened. I knew there was so much more I needed to get rid of, but with just a few short weeks before Pesach, I didn’t have time. We emptied and put. It would not have been too bad if not for the fact that I never got around to going through everything and organizing like I really wanted to! Which would have meant I would have gotten rid of at least a little bit more. Don’t get me wrong, I have gone through things and have minimized a little bit over the past year, just not nearly like I wanted to.

So, after getting psyched up from reading, I got it in my head to do something. I was not quite sure what, but last weekend I emptied out the cabinets under the two sinks in our bathroom. I sat down on the floor, opened the door, and started taking things out. I had purchased little cubbies to put things in almost 2 years before, but it was still a mess. I realized I didn’t need to organize, I needed to toss. If something didn’t resonate deep inside of me, I let it go. Some things I had kept for sentimental reasons, but did not really need any more. I understood then that it is okay to need something at one point in my life, and it is okay if later on I find that I don’t need it anymore. It is okay to move on.

After spending a couple of hours, tucked away in my little corner of the house, by myself, IKIMG1706 finished. I did not minimize to the extent that the other mother did, however, as she mentions, you need to do what is good for your family, which may not be quite like she does it. But, I am pleased. the two cabinets are still stocked – however, the bins all line up nicely and I can see what is in each of them and nothing is stacked. Perhaps on another go around I will be able to declutter more, in the meantime, I got rid of one garbage bag of stuff! Not too shabby! I am trying to decide which room to tackle next. I am thinking perhaps my closet. We shall see. It is too close to Shabbos and Yom Tov to do anything else.

What have I learned from all of this? Other than seeing how much stuff we have that we don’t have (and this was just our bathroom, I can’t even imagine the rest of the rooms!) I
have noticed another thing. My mind is clearer. Yes, I only cleaned up two cabinets, and I don’t even see the items inside of them unless I open the doors, my mind is actually a bit clearer. I have realized that everything that we have in the house is something that occupies “space” in my mind. The entire week, when I have thought about those cabinets, I have noticed “space” in my mind. I have decluttered my mind. I have time to think about other things. It has actually brought me much relief.

If I have sparked your interest, please read more about minimizing both your home and your mind here! I hope to keep y’all updated occasionally!

KIMG1714I am looking forward to freeing up my mind for many other things that I want to think about and do, including getting back into writing more. 🙂 So, as we are closing in on our trek to receiving the Torah in a few short days, with the smell of cheesecake (our own unique recipe! No, the one on the right is not green, it is actually brown – from chocolate,) challah, and more, I wish you all a wonderful Yom Tov!

Where Has The Time Gone?

KIMG1645Spring is amazing here and I am trying to soak it all up before it gets too hot to do much. I have been enjoying walks in the morning before boys need to get up.

Purim came and went and now Pesach is next week! I am having such a hard time wrapping my mind around that! Yes, I have been cleaning, I’m not too worried. I cleaned two main rooms before Grandpa came to visit us before Purim. I finished my room yesterday and we are working on boys’ rooms. I have bought all our Pesach needs except the fresh fruits and vegetables and a few odds and ends (I left our Pesach broom 1441 miles north of here 1.5 years ago since we needed something to clean with after all our stuff was gone and my regular broom was broken anyways.) Not quite sure what I did last year with all the matza crumbs, but, somehow I managed, don’t feel like figure it out right now.

We are in hail season right now. We went to bed Purim night to 15 minutes of strong hail. Woke up in the morning and it looked like it snowed! Damaged our metal roof, took theKIMG1595 paint off the fence, and dented the cars. But, Baruch Hashem, it did not break through our roof or any windows (just a couple of miles away, there were such things happening!) We had more hail this past week. I have come to expect that – it does not just rain here, as I found out last year. It pours. Gista mabul! (It’s flooding – yiddish)

Life is a bit different lately. Other than just things happening, it does feel strange not to be teaching any limudei kodesh things. Yes, I sit down with my little one and do his work with him – the watching of the videos, reading the school work and writing down many of the his dictations. But still, does feel weird. The little one told me he needed to make a new haggadah. Ah, yes, we used to do those. He does have a nice one his Saba Saba (Great Grandfather) bought him shortly before he passed away, but he wants one he makes. I was rummaging through my mind to try to remember which ones I have in my 3 inch binder that would be good for him. I am thinking the circle one would be good for him. Will look it up and pull it out.

*2 days later*

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Tea Time! With strawberries dipped in cocoa water and then sugar. Utterly messy, but utterly delicious!

Well, I went to go look on Chinuch.org for it to link to it, but I got caught instead looking at some other amazing things they had there. And then 2 days passed by somehow. I showed Mr. Little another haggadah, and he wanted it all printed out. It is a full haggadah but has some nice comments for children in it and he liked it. I printed out all 90 ish pages and then messed up royally on the hole punching… We won’t go down that road. I still have to fix one set of holes so it goes in the binder. And no, we have not gone over any of it because of that. Sigh. Wonder if there is anything else I can do. I guess I can just punch holes all around to make it look like it is supposed to be there – there are already holes on the other side! Or, I think I might just find some cardboard and tie yarn through holes. Yes, I think we can do that. I will let him decorate the outside when he gets bored.

I am not sure how I would manage cleaning the house if the boys were in school. We have spent 3 days on two rooms upstairs. Yeah, well okay, the boys spent one day painting – you know how it goes, all you wanted to do was clean, but out comes the paint. That room has not been painted since we moved in, and it was really needing it. All 4 boys (and Mommy) were into the painting. I was going to just do 3 walls but they did all 4. That room has a KIMG1643ceiling with 3 sides (almost like a barn), and they painted two of the sides as well, just leaving the actual ceiling alone. One beautiful boy went up and beyond and made sure it was all trimmed – ceiling, walls, in between the windows. He did not stop until it was done. Mr. Quiet is good that way. And to give my heartfelt thanks, I took him out. No one knows where we went (except Daddy), and we went on our hideaway to get some ice cream! I told him not to tell anyone where we were going. The others worked, and I am proud of that, it is just that he went up and beyond. I wanted to thank him for that but don’t want the others to feel bad for they great as well. So much for trying to work on my diet. I couldn’t just let him eat by himself (the date was quiet as it was – we are both quiet people,) and no, even though I was not going to have any, I did. So, we enjoyed our ice cream, together, in silence. I think he enjoyed himself. 🙂

Other than painting, we played musical rooms, and three boys moved rooms. Three in one and one in the other. So, boys all slept in their new rooms last night – and all rooms are KIMG1648cleaned for Pesach. Now, to just deal with all the stuff that was put outside on the landing….. I wonder how much of it I can really throw out. Not sure I can get by with all of it, but I think I must try! After getting a black garbage bag full of garbage from one room (and yes, I HAVE cleaned it out several times since last Pesach!) I need to have less stuff in that particular room. Much less stuff. Meaning, I would love to have nothing really, so anything there I know is garbage! But, realistically, maybe just a desk? It has drawers so he can put things in it. I might get by with that. Worth a try.

Somehow we still managed to get some school work done. We are about done for cleaning – mainly just the landing upstairs is left. And the last big thing is the kitchen. A few odds and ends, but that is about it. I think we are doing good. The boys cleaned out our inside freezer (we have a separate fridge and freezer in our kitchen) and it is stuffed withKIMG1650 our Pesach foods for I refuse to clean the outside freezers. Too much work for me. So, Baruch Hashem, we can manage without them. We are really excited and all enjoy the Yom Tov. The boys are looking forward to making sure we have enough makkos for the seder. We usually end up missing some of our hail every year, and occasionally some wild animals go missing. And, we are looking foward to family coming over for the last days. That is always exciting. Apparently they liked us so much last year that they wanted to come this year. Woohoo! 😀 Baruch Hashem our house is plenty big for everyone! “Boys are excited about seeing their cousins” is an understatement.

I won’t keep y’all any longer. Wishing everyone a Kosher Pesach – free from both physical and spiritual chometz, with lots of joy and happiness. We should all be free from our personal slavery, and there is still time for Moshiach to come and take us to Eretz Yisroel 🙂

Melamed Academy – My Review

Strawberries in January!
Strawberries in January!

Wow, I actually am able to get another blog written up within a month! Baruch Hashem, things have started to finally settle down. it just took almost a year and a half. Who ever said moving was easy? Especially multiple times and to a totally brand new location and friends. Who ever said growing up was easy? No. One. Ever. But now, I have started to breathe. I even did nothing a few times. Nothing. Just sat on the couch or laid on the bed. In the middle of the day, thinking something was wrong, but couldn’t really figure out what I was needing to do with the boys right then, feeling guilty, but not letting it bother me. I think I am finally able to do so much more than tread water to survive. I think I am finally getting there. I even went outside to swing with Mr. Little and had a few rounds of tether ball with another!

Without further adieu, my review of what everyone has been hearing about for the last 6 months or so; questioning, hesitating, getting snippets on, etc….

Melamed Academy

We have been signed up for Melamed Academy for about 2 months now. The first month was half vacation and half trying to figure out how things worked, and this past month has been actually getting into a routine and getting things done. The following information is based on my knowledge – from experience, calling up and talking on the phone with my questions, emails and my understanding. It is all in my own words.

What is Melamed Academy?
Melamed Academy is something that the Jewish world has been lacking. There are many secular schools that have been doing this for many years, and finally, there is something for us as well.  Melamed Academy touts themselves to be an Affordable, Online Jewish Day School going from kindergarten through 12 grade and college. Basically, one can get both Judaics and Secular done online, for all grades. No more is there wondering what Judaics to teach, how to teach it, grades etc.

Melamed Academy is registered as a non-public school in NJ and all high schoolKIMG0034 graduates will receive a NJ high school diploma. There are almost a dozen Bachelors that one can take through Melamed Academy, attaining degrees from either Thomas Edison State University (accredited by Middle States Commission on Higher Education) or Charter Oak State College (accredited by The New England Association of Schools and Colleges.)

MA offers both Judaic as well as secular classes. A child can be registered in both, just Judaics, just secular, or even individual secular classes.

The 4-letter word – What is the C-O-S-T?
As of November, 2015, the cost is $2000 total. Period. For both Judaics and secular. $1000 for Judaics, $1000 for secular. Affordable tuition.

How does it all work, and how can they charge so little when a regular private Jewish school tuition usually range from ~$10,000-$25,000 per child, per year?

The answer is simple. They try to compile as much free stuff as they can from the internet. I have heard people complain about that for anyone can do that, why should we pay for it? Here is my take:

If one has time to search for all the sites, great. If one has time to find the stuff for each and every week, even more kudos to you. However, I will put it bluntly. I am lazy. Yes, I have searched online, seen many, many websites, and yes, I could possibly put together most of what I see my children doing on Melamed Academy. But, I am lazy. To work for several hours each Sunday afternoon putting together links for the week is too much for me. Normally, I try to get as much done in the summer as possible but I can’t get it all done then and therefore there are things that will be lost for I do like to have a day off.

For $1000, I don’t mind paying someone to find all those links (mostly free, but not all,) post the videos, reading materials, create homework each week, and grade them. That I can afford and to me is reasonable.

KIMG1538The thing that sold us on trying this out is that they have an option for parents to purchase kosher computers. I don’t like my boys going on the internet – it is hard to monitor them, and with 4 boys all wanting to use the computer at the same time would be difficult, to say the least. On their kosher computer everything can be blocked. We have everything blocked except school work. My boys can be quite innovative and they try all sorts of things to get around the hoops. I have had to email the school multiple times to ask them to block them from being able to log onto their Gmail accounts, among other things I would never have thought of (I guess I am not a child anymore!) They have been very kind and have put up with all my email requests with a smile.

How does it all work?

The school uses the Google Classroom platform, which is similar to Blackboard, for those of you who have seen that. The main screen has links to the school (secular/Judaics) and you click on a link to go open it up. There is listed all the school work and due dates the child needs to do. Each topic has links to material that needs to be read and/or listened to and then there is homework to be completed and handed in.

Each week new material is posted for the child to complete at their leisure. For our boys, some of the material is the same for all our boys (videos on tzaddikim and similar topics, and Parsha is the same for all except my high school boy.) However, the homework is related to the age of the child. They have a teacher/rebbe assigned to the classes and the boys can send and receive messages.

I am very happy with the secular program that we are doing and do not want to change that, however, the boys are getting older and need more than what I can provide for Judiacs. I did have a peak at a couple of the secular classes for my sister has signed up her oldest in some of them. The ones that I saw were high quality online classes geared for children at grade level. They seemed like good classes and include quizzes, tests and homework.

What is our experience?

The beginning was a bit difficult for the boys for it was something that was totally different than what they were used to. The main issue was that the material is mainly videos that are about an hour long. Some of the classes had multiple videos to watch before answering questions. At first, I was not sure how it was going to work for the videos are mainly geared towards adults. However, surprisingly, the boys have all gotten used to them and no longer complain about how long things are and they just go and do their work.

The one thing that I have noticed is that all of them enjoy doing their school work. Every single one of them. Even the one that finds school work more challenging and doesn’t really want to do school at all really enjoys going on “his” computer to do work. This one particular boy is usually one of the first ones to finish his work for the week and that shocks me to no end! This is the one I was most concerned with. I noticed that he started to turn in his school work empty, just to say it was done. I started unsubmitting his work so that he could actually do it. It turns out that he found the shiruim very daunting and was just too overwhelmed. I started sitting down with him and listening to the shiurim with him and then I could help him answer the questions. I had him read the questions before listening to the shiur so that he would know what to listen for. When he found an answer he could stop the audio and write things down. After about 3 or 4 times of this, he started telling me to go away! I was hesitant, but I let him test his wings. When I went to check his work, I found that yes, he was starting to answer the questions. He occasionally would ask for my help on something, but that would be all. He found out he really could do it and now I just spot check and help him on one assignment to help him make his work look better (grammar).

The school wants the children to succeed. They work with the child, customizing the work – is the child overwhelmed? Do they need to have shorter material to read each week? Does a child have an IEP? Too high or too low of a level? I can’t count how many emails (and a few phone calls) were made since we started talking to the school. Every email I write I get a nice patient answer. We have made multiple changes to the security of their computers as well as multiple changes to the school work of various boys. They work with me to find a good and happy medium for each child.

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Tu B’Shevat Seder with Room 613!

One of the big results of our boys being in this school is that I have finally found that I can breathe. It has been a long year and a half since we have started our process of moving and settling down, and even though it has been just about a year since we have made our final move, things still did not settle down until now. I have found that even though have we added multiple classes to each boys’ week in Judaics, I have time to do more – both with each of them and for myself. I am able to find time for Mr. Little and get his school work done, and I have time to breathe. Mr. Little has joined me on my handicrafts and sits down to crochet with me. I can even sit down in the middle of the day to write a few thoughts on my blog. 😀

So, what is our overall impression? For our family, this is definitely just what the doctor ordered. I feel that a huge burden has been lifted from my shoulders. No, it is not perfect – how much really are some of my boys getting out of an adult shiur when they are only in elementary and middle school? They seem to be able to answer the questions in general so I think that things are good. If we get to a question that was not found in the shiur, and perhaps really above their level at the moment (we have done this a few times especially with Mr. Little,) and since their computers won’t let them search the internet for answer (yes, we have told them we have sefarim to look in!) we would just make a note to the teacher/rebbe that we didn’t seem to find the answers to a question and go on.

This is a new kind of program for religious Jews and with new things there are things that can improve, but this is a very good start. I am sure that over the next few years they will get better and we look forward to growing with them. So for now, we are very happy.

Also, a full line of Melamed Academy-created Torah courses is in the works, and is being phased in. Look out for it next year!

Kol tuv.

Our Vacation

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Cathedral Grove, Vancouver Island

Welcome back everyone! We are trying to adjust back to Life after basically being on a siesta for the last 3 weeks. I am not writing too much this time, for I mainly want to post some pictures of our vacation, but please at least scroll down to the end to a sneak into next post’s theme! In the meantime, enjoy the pictures!

The first week was a stay at home week with Daddy and the last few days of Chanukah. Not too much was done for Daddy was getting some much needed rest. Unfortunately Daddy couldn’t light with us most of the week, but the last few days he was home and it was nice to all be together. It was nice to have our regular menorahs out of storage this year. Mr. #2 decided he was going to make his own out of wood and a drill. He primed and even painted it all by himself. Mr. #3 was encouraged and did the same.

The last two weeks were spent visiting Saba and Savta, and aunts, uncles and cousins on Vancouver Island. The nice thing about living in a city with a HUB for airlines is that it is KIMG1393so much easier to get to the Island. One plane to Seattle and then your choice of how to get across the ferry (and airplane to do a short skip literally doubles the cost of the plane ticket, so ferry it is.) We landed before lunch and drove up the amazing almost coastal region to Canada.

I told the boys that even though we did not drive up that specific part of the world too often, it is the same general area that we did drive through when I was growing up and I felt so at home. I know that I wrote about it last year when Mr. Little and I went to that area

Up the western coast of Vancouver Island
Up the western coast of Vancouver Island

for a wedding, but I guess it is just that homey feeling that is making me write more. It was so beautiful to see all those amazingly tall trees. They are not quite as tall as the Redwood trees in Southern California, nor as wide as the Redwoods in northern California where you can drive through living trees in your vehicle and go shopping at a store in the trunk of a living tree, but these were still tall – probably at least 200 feet tall.

Vancouver Island is a very interesting place. At the bottom tip you have more of a tropical weather with some palm trees. Winters are on the colder side, but above freezing and with rain instead of snow. However, just driving not too far up the island you run into snow. We told Mr. Little that we would bring him to snow. He is still disappointed that we

The boys with Saba. Victoria, Vancouver Island
The boys with Saba. Victoria, Vancouver Island

don’t have 4 feet of snow piled up on our lawn and driveway for he misses making tunnels and forts. I keep telling him he can move back to snow when he gets older.

Most of the days was just recuperating from such a busy year. It was not just busy for Daddy, it was very different and busy for all of us. On the tannis (fast day), just Daddy and I went up the western side of the island. We had to stop before it got too windy. Twirly roads and fasting just don’t mix. We did make one really nice day trip with everyone heading towards the middle of the island up the other side. All I can say was that it was just amazingly beautiful. The fairly wet climate, trees, farms, water, just everything was so beautiful. Yes, we did get to snow, but the good snow was on the side of the highway and there was no place to really stop. On the way back, after crossing the

Victoria, Vancouver Island
Victoria, Vancouver Island

border back in the the US, we drove towards Mt. Baker and stopped at a visitor’s center to let boys out to get their fill of snow. 🙂

There has been a lot of questions and suspense about the fairly new online Judaic Day School, so y’all might want to stay tuned for next time (which will, IY”H, be fairly soon) for our review of Melamed Academy.

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Little Qualicum Hills, Vancouver Island

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Cathedral Grove, Vancouver Island

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Miscellaneous, Mt. Baker and Trip Home

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Keeping Busy

KIMG1246It has been a while, and I am not even going to apologize anymore for the lack of writing. Life is busy right now in general and has been for a while. I think it is just the boys growing and changing and we are trying to change with them. They are not the little boys they used to be – no longer are they little or dependent. Younger boys, I think I have the hang of, for the most part. But now, they are growing (some are even taller than me now – hard when I get frustrated and then I have to crane my neck to look at them,) and they are blooming even more into their own person – independent, testing new grounds, expressing new wants and desires.

Baruch Hashem. This is ultimately what we want from them. We want them to grow into independent people who can participate in society. I really cannot complain, it is just hard to constantly have to be one step in front of them to guide them properly. There is no book that tells me how to work with *MY* teenagers. That book has not been written yet.KIMG1248 However, I have found that with lots of sincere looking and sincere davening (and tears don’t hurt either,) eventually Hashem helps guide us in the right direction. We are getting the hang of it. In the meantime, I have learned that it is good to keep them busy with things – either school, fun stuff or otherwise. Some boys get bored easily and then that is not a good thing, and some need to feel accomplished, so we try to get them to help us out and do things such as plan wood working projects where they get to plan and create it all basically themselves for they really can do it now.

I have made a few changes over the past few weeks. We had been doing a 4 day week schedule for several years now and I really liked how we could have Fridays to cook for Shabbos and clean and do errands, etc. However, lately I had been feeling so overwhelmed for we would not be done until after 4:30 pm and then I would go straight from there to getting ready for supper and after supper was cleaning, evening routines and
KIMG1196getting ready for bed. I was worn out before supper time. So, I have reluctantly moved to a 4.5 day schedule. Just moving one class over to Friday morning really helps. With the change, I now usually get 30-45 minutes at least before I have to start with supper. We are not doing all I had been wanting to do. I was excited to add in our Nature Study – which we have done once. Nature walks have happened most weeks, and one sketch per walk does happen. Mr. Little and I were sharing a drawing book, until he told me to get my own. Just showing his own little independence. 😉  Last month it was nice to go to “Our Spot” by the creek at the Nature Preserve which had boys creating dams from various nature articles. It classic spontaneous homeschooling at its best.

Also, as per Charlotte Mason’s schooling, I have started to put together a little list of some handicrafts that would be fun to do. One boy is in the middle of a wood working project for our backyard and two more are working on sewing puppet-wallets combos either for themselves or for cousins and not to mention the one who bought for himself a guitar and is anxiously waiting for his lessons to start. For one boy, we are really strongly encouraging him (aka “making him do it,”) to do more laining. He likes doing it and it is really good for him.KIMG1226 Unfortunately, it looks like this year we are not going to be home for him to lain his Bar Mitzvah parsha since it falls out over Thanksgiving and we go visit family (but he was practicing it anyways today and it was nice to sit and listen to him even if he was mumbling it very quietly.) Oh, and I cannot forget that it has been cool enough now to enough some learning outside.

When I started writing tonight, I was thinking that things were not really going as nicely as I would like and somehow the days slip by and schooling does not feel like it is going well, but as I continue to write and recount what really has been going on, I am reminded of all the little things we have started and how that really adds to what can feel very monotonous otherwise. Perhaps the year is going better than I KIMG1243thought it was. Yes, we have our growing challenges, but the fact that they are happening while learning at home has been such a relief. One boy who is having a few more growing pains than others at the moment can do his lessons at a different time if he is having a more difficult moment. I am learning to be flexible (even when I don’t think I can bend any further) to help him out. When I am stretching and flexing with him, he almost always comes back when he is composed and ready and then asks for his daily work to do, and it can be all be done in a very calm and loving (but firm when needed) way which is such an added bonus for everyone. Not such an easy task for a school, but definitely something that can be done at home.

So, I feel as if we have embarked upon a brand new journey this year. It is definitely not as simple as it has been in the past, but it is something that will definitely make me grow and that is exciting. I have learned and grown a lot over the last 10 years and I am looking forward to seeing the new me. I just have to remember to keep my eyes focused on our end goals. It also does not hurt to occasionally put myself in time out and either just veg in the bedroom, or make myself 1 chocolate chip cookie. Just for me. Out of sight. Just one. I may have done it today. And if I did, it really did hit the spot and made me feel so much better, it was nice in one of the little new ramekins that we bought last week. Don’t ever underestimate the power of 1 cookie. Especially one with chocolate chips 😀 Be careful to not make it too often!

A Gut Moed! Remembering Our Year

KIMG1113I hope that everyone has had wonderful Yomim Tovim so far. We are getting near the end and I don’t want to think about that for I will miss all the ruchnius feelings. I hope to gather as much as I can to tie me over until the spring, which this year, is including a leap year so that means an extra month’s wait until the next Yom Tov. We do have a few little peaks in the dark with Chanukah and Purim, which is a good thing for it would be hard otherwise.

It has been a long time since I have written up something. I thought about it before Rosh Hashanah, before Yom Kippur, and yes, before Sukkos, but, alas, it never happened. But now I have a bit of a reprieve and I can sit down while the boys are busy and not getting into too much trouble. 😉 Over the weeks I have had many things that I could write down, if I had the time, but alas, they were not meant to be written down for I can’t remember most of them.

The one thing that I do remember thinking about is our last Shabbos we spent beforeIMG_20141006_083458 starting on our journey to the new chapter of our lives. It was a bitter sweet Shabbos Yom Kippur. Motzei Yom Kippur was the Hebrew birthday of Beautiful Boy #3 and after loading our Beverly Hillbillies van all the way to the hilt (minus the rocking chair – that got thrown out in the trash – and Granny – no chair so we couldn’t take her 😉  ), we had a wonderful Good Bye lunch at the delicious Sabra’s Grill with our wonderful friends and then off we went down the road. Down, down, down south. Across the country we went, seeing the sights as we passed, watching the scenery slowly change, seeing new vegetation and observing various cultures. Three wonderful days later, I will still remember that Hashem blessed us and we got within 500 feet of our hotel before running out of gas. It was Erev Sukkos, and the English birthday of our Beautiful Boy #3.

Last year we did not have a sukkah. Last Sukkos we were in a temporary home (a hotel) – just like a sukkah. It was a very strange feeling. My Sukkos had so much more meaning to me. It has been quite a year with several temporary homes and lots of other changes, but Baruch Hashem, we finally found our home and this year we have a wonderful Sukkah. We were treated to a nice surprise when several Boy Scouts from our Troop came on Erev Yom Kippur and even though it was hot and the day before a fast, they put up our new sukkah. (Having both the Scout Master and the SPL live here helps!) So this year, we have a wonderful home with a wonderful large sukkah and as I type, we are hosting the Troop at our home and in our sukkah until tomorrow morning. This means I don’t have to make meals for 24 hours (2 breakfasts, a lunch and a supper, along with a party) and I was just handed a bowl of macaroni and cheese with a glass of cream soda.

It has been a trying year for us, but I think it was good. I am hoping for a more productive learning year for us. School schedules need to be adjusted, as they always do once I complete a week or so of learning at the beginning of the school year. In the meantime, I am trying to soak up as much as I can from this time of the year before all the Yomim Tovim are behind us and we will start up again then.

We did have a wonderful chemistry experiment that we managed to do last night. We experimented with how various ingredients work (and tasted) in chocolate chip cookies!KIMG1105 White flour vs whole wheat, butter vs oil, white sugar vs brown sugar, baking soda vs no baking soda, and even caramelized vs non (cookies were baked over 356 degrees F). Eating cookies in the sukkah and Skyping with Saba while he was at his sukkah party made for a nice evening.

Wishing everyone a wonderful Moed and hope you can soak up all the wonderful energy from the remaining days!

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