Your Jewish Homeschool Curriculum Made Much Easier!

Hello Everyone!

I tried to write this post a while ago, but we have a new web hosting package and even though I was assured that I was not losing anything, I really am, and I was not able to write my post without my server resources being used up and having to wait and redo it all! So, I had to come up with another way of posting that will work until I get around to calling them and not having to spend $200 just so I can write text on my blog!

One of the big issues for Jewish homeschoolers has always been in creating a Judaic curriculum. After homeschooling for 12 years, I have finally put together a list of Judaic curriculum resources useful to Homeschoolers, and the grades they usually match up with. Most of the resources are free, and most can be found on chinuch.org. All I did was go through the resources to find the kinds of things that many homeschooling families are looking for – “What do Day Schools teach?” And then, the second question that most people do not get to for they don’t usually get the first question answered, but is in their minds – “How do I do it?” So, I went through tens of thousands of resources posted on chinuch.org and weeded out what I thought were the kinds of materials most appropriate in a homeschool setting. They are grouped by subject and then by grade range they are most suited for.

Firstly, please keep in mind that this is just a starting place! I have definitely included a lot that many people might be able to use my list to create a full curriculum for many years, however, please note that there will probably be some gaps that need filling in after a few years, so keep that in mind. There is still some information I want to include but is not on yet.

1. Most of what is posted are links to chinuch.org. Chinuch.org is part of Torah U’Mesorah. It is a teachers resource site where teachers can submit classroom ideas and worksheets for others to use. Teachers post their materials and someone at Torah U’Mesorah looks them over to make sure they are appropriate before making them available. Most of what is posted is supplementary material. Homeschooling parents are looking for complete programs or themes. I went through a huge portion of these materials to find complete “kits”. Bonus – Everything on chinuch.org is free. ūüôā

2. There are other sites that I have listed. Many of those are not free but are definitely worth looking at if your budget allows.

How do you use my list? All you need to do is find the subject that you are interested in looking at, then go to the grade level (Elementary, Middle School, High School) and see if anything there fits your needs. I tried to find several options for each grade level, though I was not always successful. Just do this for each subject you are looking for.

Again, this was made as a STARTING place, and you might need to fill in the few gaps you may find. The link below will take you to a Google Document of my list. If you have any issues opening it up, please sent me a message. Extra bonus: My list is free, so please pass the link around to your friends who might need it!

Click here for the list

If you have a link that you think would be good, please let me know and I will take a look at it.

Hope you enjoy!

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 Рfrom 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.

KIMG0008
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. ūüėÄ

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.

Revisiting Ambleside Online

KIMG1030
I was not going to buy books. I just wanted to look. ūüėź

Well, it’s that time of year again. I have been working for days trying to get a schedule going for 4. Yes, Mr. Little is not so little and will actually need to have a schedule of his own. I am so glad we are doing a Charlotte Mason styled learning, I would hate to think how things would be going otherwise. A CM styled learning allows me to teach more than one child without me going crazy. (I am going to apologize here for the lack of pictures, I have not gone out too much lately for one beautiful boy had a bike accident and now has one leg all straight in a cast. A black one. In 100 degree heat. ūüėź ¬†)

I still remember sitting down at the computer 5 summers ago. I was just not finding what I wanted. Money was a big issue, and anything I wanted to do cost money. I remember the boys were at a camp, with one little one at home, and I spent all morning on the computer. Searching. ¬†I remember noting somewhere that I saw “Free” written beside a link. It was not what I was looking for (so I thought), but it had been several hours and I had nothing, that after I exhausted the page for what I thought I was wanting, I decided to go back for I might as well look at whatever that was that had “Free” written beside it. It was one of the most amazing things I could have done. No, it was one of the most wonderful gifts from Hashem.

At that point I had three boys learning, with one who just started walking. I started reading. I honestly felt my heart racing. I clicked from page to page, reading everything I could read. The whole concept of whatever I was reading really felt good. I remember thinking, “This is what I want for my kids! This teaches middos (character traits)! I can have time for all my kids!” Whatever this was was a G-d based curriculum that was geared to raising well rounded children with good middos.

I typed to my husband about it and sent him some links, saying that I found something really neat! No, I don’t intend on doing this, don’t worry, but it is so interesting and so what I am looking for! (So why was I not going to do? I am not sure, but I knew it was not for me. *cough*) I went to see him at lunch time and again, briefly told him about this so interesting new thing (I still was not sure what it was), and knew I was not going to do it but it was so interesting!

After lunch, I had to go back and read everything again and then again. I just could not stop. By the time I had to get my boys from camp, the decision was made. Whatever this was, and I was still not quite sure what it was, for it was a very different kind of way of teaching, this *thing*, this is what we are going to do. This is what I need. The schedule was all laid out IMG_20150810_082138for me, in a way that made it so easy to use with our family, most of the books I needed were available for free, linked to right from¬†the website, for they were out of copyright books, and the best thing is that it was free. The philosophy so matched our family. ¬†This is what I always wanted for my kids. And bonus, there was minimal work in preparation needed from me for there was even a weekly schedule set out to follow. I texted my husband. I felt so relieved and so happy. I cried¬†all day, from the first time that morning that I started to read, and even for days afterwards I was crying. It was all wonderful, except I had one obstacle. It was Thursday. We were supposed to start school on Monday. Just 4¬†days. And¬†don’t forget¬†a Shabbos in the middle so no reading, learning or preparation then! To top it off, I had no clue how to implement the teaching.¬†That was not going to stop me. We started our year of schooling on time.

This was the beginning of our journey with Ambleside Online.  The year was strange. I had never heard of Charlotte Mason nor of her teachings, and frankly, in the 4 days between first hearing about it and starting school, I was busy getting books printed, and preparing for Shabbos. After that, I was busy trying to teach. I did not get to do my due diligence and really understand. It took me a year to really figure out how we were supposed to learn with this new method, and by the second year I was definitely getting the hang of it and as I was understanding, my love for CM learning increased.

As it often happens, once we get into a routine, we keep chugging away. I have enjoyed learning with the boys. I really enjoy the books, though for the later years I do not get to read most of them. There are several that I would love to read, however, I might have to be content to wait until the boys have gotten older so I have the time to read. I was preparing for this coming year when AO’s Facebook page started getting really active. They have a forum, but I don’t normally go to that, and I tend to just stick with Facebook. All the wonderful questions and comments and even the help-me’s got me thinking again. I know my boys need more outside time, and besides the 105 degree weather we had for a while, there really is no excuse not to send them outside. We have not done the art or composer study (yes, I’m a musician… don’t ask, that is for another time,) and we have not done too much with the nature study or walks, though I have taken the boys out more and more each year.

I want to add more, but it is hard. It finally donned on me today why it’s hard. Yes, there are Bible readings and other religious books read, and all I have to do is replace them with our Chumash, gemara, mishnayos, dikduk and whatever else we are doing. However, when I looked at it, I realized that really, we are doing a lot more than what is¬†laid out, which takes away time from doing other things. I don’t feel so bad anymore, but I really do want to do more, and I figured it out. I have figured out how to add in music lessons that the boys have asked for but I have failed to follow through with… each year… and I have figured out how to add nature study and our walks in every week. I am about ready to add in composers and their music – I’m almost done printing out short biographies of various composers – and I think I finally have a timeline and a Book of Centuries (a timeline for older children) that will finally work for us. I¬†don’t think I KIMG1023can add in more, but it is all well. I do not consider the rest necessary for our lives and that is just fine. I have been doing some reading and getting chizuk (encouragement) from other AO members on the Facebook page. I was telling my husband about the nature studies I am adding and I told him I just feel so relaxed and happy about it all. I am still not quite sure how I want to do it, but that is fine, there are various ways and we will use trial and error to find out what works for us.

As we start our 5th year with AO, I am feeling more confident than ever. I almost feel like I am starting fresh and new. I guess I am. It’s a new learning year and I am ready with new thoughts and ideas to bring to our lessons that I hope will help make our children more well rounded and ready for whatever they intend to do in the (near – yikes!!!) future.

Wishing all of you a wonderful learning year!

It’s Here Already?!?!?!

20140826_174130a Wow, is it really that time of year again? Wait, isn’t summer still here? I’m not ready. Usually I have a schedule ready 2-3 weeks before we start our learning again. Well, let me rephrase that for we are always learning; before we officially start our new school year. I tried to sit down and work on our schedule multiple times this past month, but something always took me away, including somehow being tagged as the parent who drove boys and friends to a nice creek that had a nice waterfall on an 80+ degree day last week. (Note to self: When you want to spend only an hour at the water in nice weather, don’t let boys go into water. Somehow they just won’t¬†want to leave, and unless you actually go into the water to have them look at you, you can bet on them all of a sudden having selective hearing issues.) I finally wrote down what they are going to do, but it was not until last Thursday/Friday that I finally got to sit down and come up with a schedule. I don’t feel ready to start.

One thing I did keep in mind this year is that even though I love all of Ambleside Online’s schedule, we just will not go through all of the books. For example, there are always 3 bibliographies or similar kind of books a year,¬†however, we usually only get through one. That was a hard thing to admit for it is hard to decide which books to leave out, they are all good sounding and I really would like to do them all. But, after doing this for 4 years now, I realize that we were not necessarily meant to complete ALL the books on the list, but it is a list of great stuff to choose from. My oldest was able to get through almost all the readings but some of the other boys are¬†slower readers or the narrations just take a long time¬†so it takes longer to do so¬†the readings are split up sometimes into multiple weeks. (Yes, I know some people will split up each reading into multiple days, but we just don’t seem to have enough time to do that.)

This past week was busy. Other than finally finding time to make a schedule, Mr. Big has officially started school as a college student. (Yikes!)20140826_173235 Last Monday was his first day. Right now, all his classes have to be online for even though he might be mentally ready for the material (he did have to take a placement test to get in,) I am not letting him go to a physical class. He is still a child (at 13!) and is not ready for the college environment (at least that is what I say and I’m sticking to it.) It is a new experience for all of us. Us seasoned university graduates are trying to guide him in what he needs to be doing, and even though I did take an online course several years ago, it does seem to be very different than what us old folks experienced, though with being old comes wisdom and that makes up for all of it. ūüôā So his AO classes are limited and made up for with all the work he will be doing in his two classes.

For the other boys, we are almost set with our books. I would just like to get a different version of the King Arthur that they will be doing this year for I would like to get the version that has Librivox recordings to listen to. Librivox is a site that had free public domain audio books that are read by volunteers. Since many of the books used by AO are now out of copyright and in the public domain, there are many of the books we can listen to instead of having them read it or having me read to them. Last year we chose to listen to Robinson Crusoe. The reader was pretty good and the boys liked it. They followed along in their book and got to listen to someone other than their mother. It also gave me a break from having to read it for them (it is a very wordy book, something they are not quite used too yet and therefore harder for them to read on their own,) and I got to work with other brothers during that time.

Oh, I can’t forget the Big Mr. 5 Year Old. I have his schedule as well. He would not let me forget to make him one! Hebrew, phonics (Hooked on Phonics), math (Khan Academy, yes, they now have beginning math,) and one reading book a day of science, language arts or a free book of his choosing. When asked what phonics was, I told him it was learning to read. Oh my goodness, he was jumping out of the seat we were sharing with excitement! Before he would go to bed tonight I had to teach him to read. He wanted to read. I told him it was too much and he would not learn it in one day, but I did teach him a little of what we are going to learn tomorrow – A, “a”, apple. ūüėÄ

So, are we actually going to start our new school year tomorrow? I’m not mentally prepared to start school, and I don’t think the 2 middle ones are either, especially since one boy ended up today with 6 staples on¬†his head from an accident, and the other came to me as he was headed to bed and asked if we were starting school tomorrow for he just didn’t know. We spent the entire weekend painting the house and not thinking about much else. So, other than helping one boy with his online Spanish and the math and biology we are doing, and teaching the ABC’s to another, I think we will start the learning with play-dough. Someone posted a great site that teaches¬†about the chemistry of how play-dough works. There are a few chemistry words with definitions and good graphics to go along with it all. We can end the lesson with testing out how starch reacts to the different temperature of waters. I think they will all like it. I also saw a great site that goes into the science of chocolate chip cookies. I really want to do that one as well, though I think I will save it for something fun to do over Chol HaMoed Sukkos…I won’t feel too bad about having the hard part of testing out all the variations then!

Or, I can just take them all back to the creek with the waterfalls. ūüėÄ I’m so glad we can homeschool!

My Quiet, Lazy Week

20140618_144608Summer is about here and it feels good! My oldest is having his turn for a vacation with Grandpa right now and it is awfully quiet around here. This was supposed to be the last week of school, but since one boy would still officially have school next week, I decided it was a good time to take the week off. We will finish up school next week. (Ah, the joys of homeschooling and having the flexibility of just taking off!) I have to admit, this week I have been quiet lazy. As in not really doing much lazy. I took the time to clean and organize the house just a little bit. I am getting caught up in the kitchen, I have taken several bags and boxes out to the van to give away, one boy did a very good start in cleaning the garage (it is part of one of his merit badges for Scouts,) and we spent most of the day today cleaning the boys’ room.

Actually, the boys did all the work! I give them full credit and they deserve it. They sure surprised me today. As part of my book removal this week, I bumped into a book that I bought at the library book sale several years ago called, ‘What to Do When Your Mom or Dad Says “Clean Your Room!” ‘ It is a good book for kids and tells them exactly what to do when and how to organize any bedroom no matter how messy it is. The first thing the boys said when I opened the book to read to them is, “Boy, that room [in the book] is messier than ours!” Which was a good thing for then they did not feel so bad and I think it gave them chizuk (encouragement.) They spent at least 4 hours – two in the morning and two after lunch – cleaning their room all by themselves. I think they enjoyed going back to the book to read it and figure out what to do next; after all, it was not Mommy telling them. ūüėČ It is not perfect, and we forgot to mop the floor, but it sure is acceptable and it looks “nice.” Even the beautiful boy who has trouble cleaning did an amazing job! He was the one who cleaned the garage as well the other day. I did not have to say much, he just went and did it. Obviously it needs more than the hour or so of work he spent on it, but it sure is a wonderful start. I wonder if it is the lack of his older brother around that is helping him this week or perhaps, just perhaps, he might be growing up. Maybe a little bit? Maybe? I won’t hold my breath too much at the moment, but it is good to dream. ūüėČ The trick is, can they keep their room clean tomorrow?

Mr. Big comes home on Friday, Bli Nedre, and I am sure looking forward to his return. Aside from realizing how much of a help he really is to me, I miss talking to him. I have spent the week sending boys outside and taking the quiet to just let my mind go and think. I have been thinking about decluttering/organizing (though not getting too far, but started,) thinking about how the school year has gone this year and how I want to change things for the next year and trying to think about the summer (well, got started but that is about it.) I do want to do some work over the summer, I find that some sort of schedule works well for us. We have not been doing Rambam for a little while for they are staying where their father is and he has been busy with other learning at the moment. Gum Ze L’Tova; this too is for the best – I have replaced that with Dik Duk (Lashon HaTorah series,) something that I have tried to do for a couple of years but was never able to figure out how to fit it into the schedule.

I have some thoughts on how to improve for next year. I know that I have been trying to do too much with my oldest for Ambleside Online. It is just that everything looked so good that I tried to cram it all in. Unfortunately, it did not work out. So, I will have to thin out the workload for next year just a little bit. That is not too bad for that is the idea anyways; they put a lot into each year  to give the parents a nice selection to choose from.

For the summer, I was thinking of finding something for each one of the boys to do that is a little different than what we usually do. For one boy, he would like to write books (but hates to write,) so I have been thinking of The Creative Writer. I am wondering if I can have him spend the summer writing a book and then at the end of the summer we can print it off on Lulu.com. That should definitely make himself proud of himself.

It is almost 10:30 pm but my little one is still up and about and just cannot sleep. Even so, it is still awfully quiet around here. Did I mention the I cannot wait for my oldest to come back home? Just 2 more days! This is the third year now that Grandpa has taken one boy with him on a vacation. It does not seem to matter which boy is gone, the house is quiet without him. It is even more quiet this time for said boy is very talkative with his Mommy and Daddy (Baruch Hashem!!!!) and that is missing along with the bickering with his younger brothers. I am treasuring the quiet but am looking forward to his return.

I had some nice long walks with my DH this week, and that really helped make the week nice and serene. Hainge time to talk alone is something we like to do, but the past many months we have not had that pleasure and it sure has made a big impact over the last week. We have been able to talk about the boys and other needed stuff. It just puts a productive end to the day.

I’m off to bed now. Have a good night!

Our Long Weekend and Scroll Tutor Review

20131013_183924 (2)Another busy week has past and another busy week has started. The boys went on a scout campout¬†Sunday¬†and¬†Monday, and since DH was their scoutmaster as well, it was just me and the little one at home for some nice quiet time. Motzei Shabbos I sat down with him and had him tell me what he wanted to eat the next day. We settled on some pasta for lunch (which he made for me) and pizza for supper. I was able to convince him that jellybeans would best be had for a snack opposed to a full meal. ūüėČ We had a nice lazy morning with some beautiful weather, picked up a tefillin bag for my oldest who starts to put on tefillin this week (!!!) and even got to surprise Daddy and brothers by coming by the campsite for supper (we pushed pizza till the next day and had delicious fire cooked hot dogs and hamburgers instead, complete with roasted marshmallows.) ¬†I think the car is finally cleaned out, with all the camping gear still in the living room, however, all boys had showers and all clothes are in the hamper (I think…) I have decided that¬†all clothes are going in the laundry at the same time – This time I will not discriminate between lights, darks, heavy, thin, etc. I believe in all clothes getting the same opportunity to being washed and dried. ūüėČ (Just do not tell the boys that, for then they will want to do it all the time!)

This morning is the first morning that my oldest put on his new tefillin! As I woke up early and saw father and son leave the room, I made sure to remind my husband, for the third time, to remember to take at least one picture for me. No, I am not excited in the least. I am feeling a bit overwhelmed right now between trying to figure out what to do with the scout popcorn this week as well as work on details for the Big Day next month. But, have no fear, the nice thing is that even if I don’t do anything, time still goes on! Ha! And yes, that does comfort me as I try to juggle everything for Time comes and Time goes, and Life really does go on and I won’t get stuck in a rut. C’est la vie!

There is a new website that has just launched call Scroll Tutor. They have 10 minute videos on Chumash and they are starting off with Parshas Shemos. Right now, there is a new video once a week and they are sending out a weekly email with the next video link. I received the link to the 3rd video this weekend
20131013_121938 and finally got around to pulling up a video to watch. I figured that I could afford to spare 10 minutes to check it out especially with everyone out of the house.

The videos are definitely geared a little more towards children, though, as an adult, I did enjoy watching it as well. (They do advertise it is for both children and adults.) The videos are very similar the kind of videos done on Khan Academy. The speaker has the Hebrew text on the screen, goes through it and translates it, talks briefly about it and then pulls up Rashi to answer some questions. He puts in some clip art in as well to help the viewer better visualize what is being talked about and to help keep the interest of the viewer. He underlines the words as he goes, which I thought was great for there was regular motion to redirect delicious minds to keep focused on the task at hand. 10 minutes. Nice, short and sweet. Very easy to fit into busy schedules as well. There really is no excuse not to fit in 10 minutes into the day. Right now there is one chapter sent out every week, with about 6 six videos per chapter. After all, 10 minutes a day, 6 days a week, 52 weeks, that is 520 hours or 21.7 days more of Torah learning a year! And hey, if even one of my children learn 21.7 extra days of Torah learning a year, that is 21.7 extra days of credit that I get on my account, and I have 4 boys, so that is 86.7 days and if I sit down to learn with them, well, it is starting to look mighty good. I know, I’m just thinking of myself. ūüėČ

I thought of my one little boy that I am the one struggling to understand better, who really is taller than me, and thought he would really benefit from videos like these. So, as I prodded one little boy a few times (this one really is shorter than me still,) to keep awake while finishing up the Rambams they were doing and then sent 3 off to bed, I kept the one boy behind to show him the video. Even though he was tired from the campout, he was really good at focusing and listening.

20131015_070925I asked him what he thought about it and then what he liked and what he didn’t like. His answers, in order, are 1) he liked the pictures and 2) he liked how it was taught. (The teaching style.) I asked if he liked how it was underlined and if it helped keep his focus and he said yes. He did not have anything he did not like. He also told me “too bad he does not do videos for trop,” my guess he is thinking about HIS bar mitzvah that is coming up in the not so distant future. As he walked sleepily off to bed, he asked me if he could watch more tomorrow.¬†They are planning on having a subscription for the videos, but right now you can sign up for a free trial.
I think campouts are a great thing, and think they should have more of them for within minutes, the room with 4 boys was silent. They all fell fast asleep.

Summer Has Started!

20130728_144349After the third and final birthday party for a very lucky 4 year old, the last couple of days I actually felt it was a summer day for me – I actually got to sit down without having to rush and do some prep for the school year. (The watermelon was carved into the shape of a jeep, along with windshield wiper blades and side mirrors! A brother loved the birthday boy!) The best part of the school year is having all those books come pouring into the mailbox. Most of our books are purchased from Amazon.com and most of them are used so they come from varioius sellers. We have had several shipments arrive at our house over the past week and still have a few more to go.

I am very excited about one of the books that came; How To Read a Book  by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren. Yes, I know it sounds like a funny name, but it is very accurate. I have decided to start the pre-reading of new school books by reading that book first. I have read the first 5 chapters so far. It is a very good book which describes how to effectively and systematically skim through a book to learn the main points, as well as how to read it when you decide to actually read it so that you get the most out of the book. I figured this would be a great start so that I could pre-read all the books that come in over the next week or so for I need. I will not have time once school starts to read, or more appropriately perhaps, I will not want to read anything else once school starts except what I will be reading to boys during school time. I highly recommend this book.

It has been gorgeous outside so I threw the boys outside as much as possible. That gave me some nice quiet time to sit, do nothing, and then feel like I needed to and wanted to do something, so I read the book on how to read a book. ūüôā I even took some time to sit outside and enjoy. I had the branch of one of our flowering trees just a few inches from where I was sitting and it was very peaceful to watch the bees buzzing and getting the pollen all over their bodies.
Our summer schedule has not really gone on as I thought it would. I am not too worried about it for hey, it’s summer time! I am a bit more carefree about what is done or not done. I really would like to get more of certain things done that are not being done, but I will not sweat it.¬†Rambam twice a day, along with20130724_090125 mishnayos. Afterall, Torah learning is for every day and it is good to get into the swing of things with some things so when we start school, it is just adding the rest, not doing it all at once – rather less overwhelming for me anyways that way. ¬†I also get to see how it is and how I can/need to incorporate time for the newly 4 year old and his all important school work. ūüôā It might be better than I imagined for most days for since all 3 older boys are in the kitchen listening to and following along with the videos for Rambam, and each video is around 40-45 minutes long, I found myself sweeping and mopping the kitchen floor, along with washing some dishes and cleaning of the kitchen. Mr. 4 year old was off playing by himself for one entire Rambam (yeah!) I cannot expect him to do that three times a day, but once a day would be nice and very helpful.
One boy is finally learning what it means to be busy. We have him busy. We are trying very hard to get him ready to take the SAT’s – and no, he is NOT that old yet that he is taking it for university, he is taking it while enrolled in grade 7 so as to see how well he does and perhaps help him get some scholarships for education camps, etc. He has his Rambam and mishnayos, 2 sets of math, SAT math book as well as SAT vocabulary words to work on, and not to mention his laining and the reading of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens.
A 4 year has been begging me to let him make his ‘experiment.” What he wants to do is use salt, water, sugar and flour and let it sit. I guess that is one way to learn. I instructed his oldest brother to make sure he makes a VERY SMALL concoction, and to oversee everything and make sure there is no mess. Good thing we used only food items – he wanted to test it before he let it sit! The little things that make them happy. ūüôā
As I am listening to DH playing the organ for me, he really is saying it’s bedtime and I need to go. ‘Night!

We’re All Back!

20130718_113432

Firstly, I just want to start off by mentioning a correction to the previous post. Room613.net is also geared towards teenagers, it was just my impression that it was not (not sure how I came to that impression.) That said, we are still continuing on with our Judaics for the coming year that we have mapped out.¬†Secondly, when you start tea time, expect to continue the tradition. ūüôā Cucumbers, watermelon and small bite sized pieces of brownies are all good, along with tea (or hot lemon water in our case.)¬†ūüôā We have not been able to do it the last two weeks, but today boys were complaining, “We did not have tea time today!”

The last two weeks have been almost entirely away from home. We went to the same cabin on the 350+ acres that we went to last year. Other than the 90+ degree weather with no A/C, it was pretty good, but I do not think we will be going there next year20130719_142349. (And the best thing to do on a really hot Tisha B’Av with no A/C is to drive in the car that has AC all the way back home for an hour to drop off camp stuff!) If nothing else, I found out today, after I had to take my van into the shop to get fixed, that the porcupines that live by the cabin not only eat away at the balcony and the support beams underneath it, they like to eat away at wires under cars… The mechanic asked if I keep my car in the garage, no, outside. In the back? No, in the front. Apparently, rodents like to chew on wires under vehicles, but not usually when the vehicle is kept outside, in the front, on the driveway. I asked about porcupines; we not only heard them on the porch, but actually saw one underneath eating away at the support beams. Yes, porcupines + vehicles in fields = lots of damage and money to fix the damage. He could not give me even a rough estimate when he called for he was not finished taking everything apart to see the entire damage. He will be putting some cover over my wires to help prevent this from happening again. Since we only have one vehicle, I am carless for a while.¬†The bonus to all of this is that we get to walk to the store or any other place we need to go and that means good exercise for all of us! There is a silver lining in everything. ūüėČ

The first Shabbos at the cabin was rather quiet Рjust one little boy to entertain. Sunday morning we all got up to drive 4 hours to fetch the really missed 20130718_114244brothers from camp. It was good to have everyone back home. I really missed them. I think the lone brother missed them the most. It is not easy to want to play with someone and only Mommy is around and Mommy sometimes cannot play. Boy, it sure is good to have brothers!

Aside from that, the train, Corning Museum of Glass, blueberry picking¬†and horseback riding were some of the main activities with horseback riding coming in tops for everyone (and blueberry picking a close second)! The youngest was too small to ride a regular horse so he got to have a pony ride around the farm. He then was lucky enough to be able to brush down and wash the pony. Both the pony and the little boy really enjoyed it. Oh, and I cannot forget about the birthday party #2 – afterall, it is not everyday that Grandpa comes down to visit! He was one lucky boy – a visit with Saba one day, and Grandpa the next, two birthday parties (and presents to match from each grandfather), and not to mention that this weekend there will, IY”H, be a THIRD party (for the same boy) for he was insistent that his friend comes over for a party, and since neither of the previous parties were at home, I promised him we will have one with his friend. Baruch Hashem my boys are very happy with simple things – a simple cake and a card and a small present is all that is needed to make someone happy, oh, and the occasional friend.

The Corning Museum of Glass was very interesting to go see. We have not been there before. The first section with glass art was not my cup of tea, but I really enjoyed going into the history section. They had the history of glass making, from the early times until the present, with all sorts of interesting facts and artifacts. We even got to see some glass making demonstrations such as the hot glass show and the flameworking.

Well, we got to pick up our sefarim yesterday! 3 sets of Rambam’s Mishneh Torah (English and Hebrew.) I spent several hours on Monday trying to clean out a small book case that we had, figuring it had 3 shelves and each set would fit on 2. I would just need to get one more book20130717_161519 case. I was almost correct. Yes, each set fits on 2 shelves, however, the bottom shelf is too short to put any books on. Never fear, I have ideas! In the meantime, the living room is a mess. Boys have taken all the books out of the boxes and have been labeling all of their 93 books. Wow. I did not realize how many books we really were getting until just now. I was just of thinking it as 31*3 and those in themselves are not that big, but to do the actual math problem, wow, multiplication is powerful! We were good and even started our learning today! One video from Rabbi Gordon from Chabad.org was listened too.

I cannot forget that we finally brought the organ inside! It was not as hard as I thought it would be. We used our Radio wagon, put some plywood on top, and used two 2×4’s and slid them under the organ with the other end of the boards on the wagon to make a ramp. We then pushed the organ up the ramp. We all held on while one boy very, VERY carefully and slowly pulled the wagon all away around from the garage to the front door. The tricky part came when we had to transfer the organ from the wagon up the 2 steps into the house. With some creative thinking and cooperation, we got it into the house. Since it is mine, only I was allowed to clean it all up. Boys wanted to help but I refused. I told them to vacuum the carpet. ūüėČ Everyone anxiously awaited the moment when they could touch and then play the new instrument. I have not played the organ in almost 17 years – it is amazing how even though I play the piano a little here and there, my organ playing is terrible! It was hard reading all those staves again! I had to go way, way back to the really early days and the very easy music to get back in the swing of reading everything again. “Mommy, how can your feet play all the right notes and you are not even looking?” I smiled and proudly told my son, “I started on the organ!” That was one thing I was pleasantly surprised about; my feet still knew where to go after all these years. They were even more surprised to find out that their Dad used to play the organ as well.

I have also spent the last two days finding the books I need for my oldest. With Ambleside Online, almost everything is non-consumable, so since I have books from my oldest, the younger children have their books as well. Finally, I put all the books in the Amazon shopping card, as well as two printer inks, and 20130723_160843pressed the order button. Among the books ordered were organ books (it is not easy to find beginning organ books now!). All four boys are so excited and want me to give them organ lessons. I told them I do not have time to teach them both the piano AND the organ. 4 for the organ it is. Though they are not happy that I am not teaching them yet. I appeased them when they saw I was ordering music books first. Unfortunately, unlike the electronic piano that I have, you cannot put headphones into the organ! At least there is the volume control, it helps. A little. ūüėČ

Anyways, I am saying sweet dreams to everyone and I am off to bed to dream about the fact that I am now officially also an organ teacher. ūüôā

My Vacation

20130707_081408I have been so excited for this week to come! It is one week in the entire year that I have for me; the older boys are off at camp and I get this week to myself! And then on Shabbos it hit me. My almost 4 year old will be home with just me. Me and no brothers to keep him busy. Just me. He has been so looking forward to Mommy time. Don’t get me wrong, that is a very nice thing except that I realized that Mommy time is going to take up his entire waking hours. You see, with 3 older brothers who are home all day, who needs to learn to play by himself? Ok, so I do not have much of just me time and I can’t go out for a walk or a bike ride by myself for no one is there to look after a 3 year old and I can’t go out to the store to get the things we need when we are out when he is sleeping, but yeah, there are still lots of wonderful things about having just the one boy around.

The older boys left yesterday morning to go to scout camp. Daddy took them. I was supposed to go along except a little 3 year old was sick and throwing up20130707_151518. This put a crink into the day if only because of one thing – my boys do not get sick! Baruch Hashem, and let it stay that way. A loving Daddy bought some ginger ale before leaving for with our only vehicle gone and with a sick boy, it does not make for a day to be able to even walk to the neighborhood 7-11 to get some. We made it. After a nice needed nap he was allowed to do what sick boys get to do to keep them occupied so they can rest in bed and not be as antsy – nice educational videos. Baruch Hashem he feels good as new today. He is even learning to sleep in a big room all by himself.

Someone told me to take this time and do something for myself, so I heeded that advice. I started cleaning the house. It is amazing how much I can get done when I am doing all the work – and how clean things actually get! Living room and library were both cleaned to my satisfaction, swept and mopped, except for 1 pile of papers in each room. Not bad. Today was the garage and the cleaning of the kitchen cabinet doors. Oh, and I stumbled upon an amazing thing today – when the boys are not home it is great to clean for I can actually not only leave the room for a moment and expect it to stay the way I left it, I can even go to sleep for several hours and it will still stay the same! It feels pretty good to be able to have a few moments when the house will stay the way I want it.

Today we cleaned the garage in anticipation of our new instrument! I finally got an organ! Bonus – it was free and so was the transportation to my garage where it is now being stored until the bigger boys come home to help me move it into the house. My husband is so excited about it, almost as much as I am. He says I need to find a place for it. I tell him, it will fit in the house and that I have ideas. I have a few weeks until I need to have the answer.

20130708_125931This last week or so my husband and I have been trying to figure out what we should do next year for Judaics. We have spent the last 4 years with Room613.net and it has worked out really well. However, we decided our oldest, who is going to be bar mitzvah in a few short months (how did that happen?) was ready to move on. My husband and I are ones who do not mind thinking outside the box. Hey, the fact that we have been homeschooling for 8 years now proves it! What started out as an exercise in trying to figure out Judaics for one boy, ended up with something for all boys – that’s one bonus in having children close in age. (The other is being able to send them all to the same camp at the same time!) We have spent the last week mulling it over in our minds, bouncing it off the minds of different individuals to get thoughts and reactions and have finally decided we are going to do it. The boys are going to do Rambam’s Mishneh Torah next year. We chose that for it encompasses all aspects of our lives. We do not necessarily follow all that the Rambam says, but he does cover everything from each of the 613 mitzvos to davening, shmita year, maaser and other topics that do not necessarily apply to us today, but we should know about them.

Now, this seems fine until I mention that we are not going to do the 3 year cycle where you do one chapter a day for 3 years before completing Рthere are 31 sefarim in the set. No, we are doing the 1 year cycle Рdoing 3 chapters a day and finishing it off in about a year. Yes, I know exactly what that entails and what we are getting ourselves into. Each chapter is going to take, on average, 35-45 minutes to do. And yes, everyone that we have mentioned it to has looked at us as if we were crazy. However, since that is basically all they are going to do for Judaics, it should be more than reasonable. Children in schools spend the entire morning on Judaics, and so are we. Of course the boys are also going to do parsha/Yomim Tovim as well as continue on with their mishnayos. We are not expecting them to learn it inside and out, that will only happen by going through things multiple times. My goal is to get them to go through it. They will pick up according to each of their abilities, which is amazingly more than most of us would imagine. People learn through time. Our minds will take something we have learned or something we are thinking about and put it in the subconscious. The subconscious thinks about it and over time we get new ideas and thoughts about it. Then we can go back and learn more on the topic.

I found these wonderful videos on Chabad.org by Rabbi Gordon. He has a wonderful video for each and every chapter of Rambam’s Mishneh Torah. He reads and translates as well as explains very nicely what is going on. My idea is to listen to 2 of his videos a day with the other chapter being read and then translated by boys. This is to help boys with their personal reading. Two birds with one stone. We would obviously take breaks in between each video and not do it all at once. And, I might even stagger the times throughout the day so that one little then-to-be 4 year old is not left hanging by himself for hours on end and being bored. And yes, this is a very rigorous feat we are going to do. We were told something on Shabbos – if you start this goal, do not quit, do not alter it, do not make the goal easier. Even if you get behind 1 day, 2 days, 3 days or more. Each day is a new day. Start fresh and continue on. The only thing that should change, if needed, is the end date. I liked this.

Today I ordered 3 sets of Mishneh Torah. One for each boy. They will be theirs to keep when they move out. The only condition is that we get to use them when we want/need to, even when they move out. Where we are going to put them, I do not know. As any homeschooling family knows, bookshelves are sacred – second only to the Torah and sefarim which are held on them. I have ideas. I have time before they come in. ūüėČ

In the meantime, I miss my boys, even with the cleaner house.

Room613 Class Schedule for 2012-2013


Class descriptions can be viewed by clicking here.

Main Schedule

* Classes with Rabbi Yosef Resnick *
NOTE: All of Rabbi Resnick’s classes are on the main schedule and are included in the Unlimited Learningmembership¬†EXCEPT those marked “elective.”

All times are Eastern Time, except where otherwise noted.

Mondays
Morning
9:30 Р9:45 Davening Circle (*free and open to all member levels)
10:00 Р10:30 Jewish Thought: Hanhagos Tzadikim (Customs of the Righteous)
10:45 Р11:15 Chumash: parshat Chayei Sarah/parshat Toldot
11:30 – 12:00¬†Halacha I: Concepts & Topics in Jewish Law –¬†Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Yalkut Yosef¬†(and other texts)

Afternoon
1:00 – 1:30¬†Torah¬†SheB’al Peh/the Oral Torah: Mishna¬†(mesechta Sukkah, perek 4)¬†and other texts
1:45 – 2:15¬†Nevi’im/Prophets: Sefer Shmuel I (beginning at perek 14)
2:30 Р3:00 Biur Tefillah: Insights into the Siddur & Prayer
3:15 – 3:45¬†Elective¬†“The Thinking Jewish Teenager’s Guide to Life”¬†(for teen boys)4:00 – 4:30¬†Elective¬†¬†Talmud: in-depth study of mesechta Brachos and others

Tuesdays
Morning
9:30 Р9:45 Davening Circle
10:00 Р10:30 Jewish Thought: Hanhagos Tzadikim
10:45 Р11:15 Chumash: Parshat HaShavua/weekly Torah portion (textual study)
11:30 – 12:00¬†Halacha II: Rambam’s Mishneh Torah¬†(various topics)

Afternoon
1:00 Р1:30 Ketuvim/Writings: Mishlei/Proverbs, Tehillim, and other texts
1:45 – 2:15¬†Nevi’im: Sefer Shmuel I (beginning at perek 14)
2:30 – 3:00¬†Basic Torah Knowledge:¬†Yediot Klaliot & Musagim b’Yahadut¬†/ Fundamental concepts in Judaism¬†(based on the Torah u’Mesorah books and other sources)¬†
3:15 Р3:45 Elective Hebrew Language Arts

Wednesdays
Morning
9:30 Р9:45 Davening Circle
10:00 Р10:30 Jewish Thought: Hanhagos Tzadikim
10:45 Р11:15 Chumash: parshat Chayei Sarah/parshat Toldot
11:30 – 12:00¬†Halacha I:¬†Topics in Jewish Law –¬†Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Yalkut Yosef¬†(and other texts, rotating topics)

Afternoon
1:00 Р1:30 NEW! Jewish Service Learning; study of various topics in combination with community service: tzedakah, bikur cholim, etc.
*No classes after 1:30 on Wednesdays

Thursdays
Morning
9:30 Р9:45 Davening Circle
10:00 Р10:30 Jewish Thought: Hanhagos Tzadikim
10:45 – 11:15¬†Chumash: Parshat HaShavua¬†(textual study)11:30 – 12:00¬†Halacha II: Rambam’s Mishneh Torah

Afternoon
“The Shabbos Trilogy”
1:00 Р1:30 Mitzvot & Halachot in the Weekly Parsha РMidrash, Sefer haChinuch, Ben Ish Chai, and more!
1:45 Р2:15 Shabbat Laws & Customs
2:30 Р3:00 Insights into the Weekly Parsha (not textual study) 
3:15 – 3:45¬†Elective¬†for boys ages 7‚Äď9:¬†Kriah, Stories, Parsha & More!
4:00 Р4:30 Elective Talmud: in-depth study of mesechta Brachos and others

Fridays & Sundays
Private classes & tutoring (please contact me to arrange private sessions)

 * Alternative Scheduling Option for LA Homeschoolers *
and all others who are not in the Eastern U.S. time zone
¬†If you’re in a time zone that makes attending our live morning classes impractical, this plan is for you. Our Alternative Schedule offers unlimited access to all of Rabbi Resnick’s afternoon classes on the main schedule. In addition, you have unlimited access to all morning (and afternoon) classes as complete audiovisual recordings, available any time of day or night.

The schedule is subject to change. If you have suggestions or requests, please let us know.