After Week 1 of the World Staying Inside

Wow. That one small word just sums everything up. I figured I had it pretty easy when I found out that 3 out of 4 of our boys were going to be home. Hey, why not? I went from homeschooling our oldest, ( I think that was 13 years ago… I have lost track of the time!) to homeschooling 2, then 3, then 4, and now down to 1 again., to bringing home 2– who have online classes anyways – not a problem! I don’t have to worry too much about them. Of course, I can do it! Probably can do it better than most other parents, since that is just what I have been doing all these years.

A week later, I am a little bit older and hopefully a little bit wiser. Still trying to figure out where I went wrong in my thinking. Don’t get me wrong, I am pretty sure I am having a much easier time than most, so why have I felt so much more overwhelmed this past week than expected? I think there are a few things that I did not consider.

Firstly, I am in Pesach mode.  True, I had already cleaned several of the rooms, and today I gave one room to my husband, and the older two boys have their room, leaving just my youngest’s room and the dining room and kitchen, with the latter two being done next week. But still, trying to clean for Pesach while having more people than usual who make good use of the house is a bit stressful. Do I wash all the dishes or sweep or mop? I can get 2 out of 3 of them done but not all three, unless I want to stay up later. But that is usually out of the question for I am too tired.

Secondly, my husband is working from home. Yes, I am thankful he is still working, and yes, he would occasionally spend a day working at home, but this is a bit different. The whole setup is different. Instead of him asking me to come to help with something or just to talk every few weeks, – which I never minded at all – it is now something that is done on a daily basis. I really don’t mind, don’t get me wrong.

Thirdly, it’s this whole being stuck at home business that is slowly (or not so slowly) starting to get to me. Every day I wake up and have to consciously ask myself what day it is for all my check points during the week of the various things we do, or normally go to, are now gone. Yesterday is the exact same thing as today and will be the exact same as tomorrow.  The only difference is that once a week we have Shabbos. Baruch Hashem for Shabbos.

I have also been doing extra thinking about other ways I can help my family (other than laundry and cooking and sending them to bed!) For Hashem has basically stopped the world as we know it, giving us the chance to do introspection, to find all those things that we wanted to do and to change, and He has now given us the time to do it. Our lives have gotten so busy. There are things that we would love to do and things we have wanted to change, but there was no time to do it. Now, there is.

What is my bucket list? What things really matter to me that we are not doing already? Family time. Even though we are still missing our oldest (he is working and had planned on coming home for the first half of Pesach, but now cannot 🙁 ,) there are still the rest of us. We cannot all have lunch together because of the time zone difference between one boy’s school and were we are, but we try to all sit down for supper. Just us. No phones, no computers. The real nice surprise came when I only had to tell one boy, once, to please wait until supper was finished. I did not tell anyone beforehand not to bring electronics to the table. People just did it.

I had started, several years ago, little notebooks for everyone to write down things they are grateful for. The last time we did that was almost 3 years ago.  I took them out again last week. Unfortunately, we only did them once for I don’t keep them on the table as a reminder. Hopefully, we will get a few more things written in them over the next few weeks.

The other thing that I have been trying to work on is more Torah learning and exercising for everyone. I try to read one or two short Dvar Torahs (Torah thoughts) at supper, and I sent everyone in the house, including my husband, on a bike ride yesterday. (One boy did not have a bike, so he used mine instead of me.)

I think each new thing that I have had to adjust to, on its own, would have been just fine. But, put all the things together, and now there is something new that I did not have before. So, that would explain why I need to go into hiding every day. Very grateful for an understanding husband. 😀

I had been looking at the news several times, okay, many times, a day. Not much new would happen over the course of an hour, though I found myself being compelled to keep looking. I have since stopped. Over the last few days, I have found I would only look at it once, or maybe twice, a day. Last week I was busy doing laundry (one boy had just a couple hours to pack all his clothes from the year at school before coming home – and yes, they were all needing cleaning!) to dishes to food to dishes to food to sweeping to OH! I do actually homeschool one boy for real and I do need to teach him (which that in itself is not going as normal,) to food to AHHHH!!!! to food to food, yes, and to more food. I forgot how much teenage boys eat! I love my boys! Glad they eat, however, with all this staying at home thing and limiting going out, and not being able to find food delivery options very well, the food thing really gets tight sometimes. But it is all good.

Things are not normal. Not even for the beautiful boy that I normally homeschool. I forced myself to understand that it is okay that we are starting late. I am up and working, I just do not start school with him like I should. It’s okay to not do everything. I have chosen to focus on a select few things plus some Pesach learning instead. As homeschool parents know, life skills is also learning, and right now we are doing a lot of life skills. So, we are learning, just different stuff. That is a challenge for me, but I’m working on it. I don’t like schedules, but I find I really some sort of schedule for our schooling (albeit I can be fairly loose with just one boy to teach) and I find it hard when we cannot do it.

This week, there is a feeling of some sort of routine which gives me some time to think. Imagine, a small thing that one can only see with an electron microscope paralyzing the world. How can that be? Obviously, it is Hashem’s doing. There is no other logical explanation. But, why the whole world? It’s not a city or two, or even a country or two, but the entire world. SOMETHING is happening. I am excited to see what is going to be! The entire world has basically come to a complete stop. Everyone is told to stay in their homes. Oh, when have we heard that one before? How about when we were in Mitzrayim (Egypt)? The difference is that this time it is the entire world that is told to stay indoors.

A friend told over a short Dvar Torah to me the other day. She said to make sure that every room in your house is holy so that when Moshiach comes, your entire house will be able to be transported to Israel. What better time to do that than now? Normally, I try to have in mind that I am cleaning all the chometz (leavened bread) out of me as I clean my house. I try to fix me, but honestly, I never can seem to do that for as I am cleaning my house and looking for physical chometz, I cannot focus on my spiritual chometz! I cannot think of what I need to correct while I am paying attention to the physical cleaning. This year, I found a better thing to do. I am going through the house and I am cleaning to make each room special, kodesh (holy). That I can do. I am happy that some of the rooms are done already, and it has given me the opportunity to do some organizing in some a few places that need it (like the garage!) I try to keep the areas I am working on reasonable and not overwhelming. Tonight, I am feeling accomplished. I feel good about myself. I feel like perhaps this year I will feel like I have changed somehow, even if I am not sure how. And when my children sing “Ma Nishtanah Halilah Hazeh…” perhaps the night will be different not only because we are all home by ourselves and not allowed to even daven together, but perhaps it will be different for I will feel that somehow *I* am different.

Grab opportunities. Let yourself change. When you do, you find that you are calmer and happier. And please, stay healthy and safe. Remember, Hashem has a plan for everything, and it is all good! Wishing everyone a very meaningful Pesach.

💖

How to Make Homeschooling Work – Crash Course

Now that almost all the schools are closed, I would like to welcome any parent with a child in (or was in) school to the wonderful world of homeschooling! I say that with a smile, but I totally understand what that means and know it is not an easy thing at all for almost every parent who has been forced into this situation.  It is not easy for us parents who have willingly put ourselves in it to begin with.  – Oh, and you are already a homeschool parent? This is definitely different (keep reading – we all need reminders sometimes and hopefully there are few helpful tips even for you.)  Activities are closed, many cannot even go outside. Just because we homeschool, we still take our children outside!

I want this blog to be helpful and give people chizuk – encouragement. There is so much information that one usually gets and needs before delving into homeschooling, but there is no time for that. So, to the best of my ability, I will try to give a crash course. I have written down 9 pointers to help:

1) Firstly, I want you to know that you are not alone! We are all there.  Some of us have some experience, but most, none. Like anything else, it is not easy, but we are told that Hashem only puts us in situations that we can manage. You CAN do this. (Perhaps you want to put this message all over your house to remind you!)

Everyone’s family works differently and what works for one family – or even one child, does not mean it will work with the next family, or even the next child in the family. Treat it like an experiment. “Hmm…. Well, that did not work, I wonder why that did not work,” or even, “Wow, that worked!  Let me try that again!” If we get into that mindset, even setbacks can be just a tad less harsh and easier to manage.

2) The second thing to note is that whenever a child starts homeschooling after being in a school, they need to deschool. Deschooling is letting the child learn to transition from a school learning environment to a home learning environment.  The length of time is generally around 1 month per year in a school.  Yes. I know what I just said.  I said it takes, about 15-30 days for each year a child was at school to learn to adjust. Don’t try to rush it. This is something that most likely all of you need to adjust as well.

3) The next thing I find is most important, and what it really means varies from family to family, but you need to create some sort of schedule. This could mean that children get up, dressed, and eat at a certain time and then there is davening and everyone is going to learn for 1.5 hours and then that is all you can handle so the rest of the time is “free” time, to something else. You just need SOMETHING.  Even in the summer when we are “off of school,” I found we have to do a subject of something each day – could be something really fun, but I needed to put that into our morning and then it did not matter what happened the rest of the day for we accomplished something. Our day was meaningful.

Many schools and yeshivas have transitioned to online schooling, which definitely helps, but comes with its own set of issues.  Please, just make sure you check up on each of your children a couple of times during the day so you know that they are where they need to be. It is good for the children as well, so they don’t feel so isolated and know you are around and care. You don’t have to talk to them, but just walk by and pause for just a moment. If they are doing independent work, just a quick hi and asking how they are doing can do wonders.

4) What if a school is not able to provide online schooling, or you have younger children who are not in school and now your attention is taken from them? You can go to my previous blog where I list a few suggestions here as starting places that can help.

5) Don’t forget about You. You are important. You need time out. You might even find you need to hide in the bathroom, with the door locked, for it is all getting on your nerves. Believe me, probably every single homeschool mom knows that trick and has made use of it more than once. When you are the only adult in the home and no one is there to relieve you so you can take a 15 minute break, you resort to what you have.  (And yes, it really does help!)

6) All the activities are closed. You are stuck in the house. Please follow whatever guidelines are found in your area at all times, however, here are some suggestions that might help.

                – go outside the door (while staying on your property!!!).  Take a chair or two and just sit outside of your front or back door. Even if you cannot leave your property, there is no reason why you can’t get some fresh air. It really helps everyone to feel happier.

                – you can do jumping jacks, jogging in place, jump rope, sit-ups, and many other exercises and stretches while staying in one spot.  Make a game out of it. Who can jog in place the longest, or do 5 minutes of jump rope? Make it as fun as you can. Get creative!

                – if you have a bit more space like a backyard, you can expand to tossing a ball, running around the backyard, potato sack races, 3-legged races, wheelbarrow races, and a variety of other things.

7) Schedule Quiet Time. Have 30-60 minutes a day where everyone is quiet to the best of their abilities. Have a baby or young child that naps? Great! Everyone will have quiet time at that moment.  They can read, rest, quietly work on a puzzle (jigsaw or puzzles on paper), etc. but it has to be quiet, and everyone should be by themselves. We all need time to decompress from our day. You can even call “Quiet Time!” whenever you feel the tensions rise and you find people need the break.

8) Assign one chore/task to each child, according to their ability, to be done at its proper time. Tasks can include wiping the table after each person puts their dishes away. One child is responsible for sweeping a certain room each day. Taking out the garbage, putting a bag in the garbage can, putting one load of laundry on on a certain day (older child), folding one pile of clothes, each child making sure their bed is made up, emptying the dishwasher, filling it up and putting it on, etc.

9) Tell everyone you love them. All the time. In the morning, when they have sent you to the ceiling, and when they go to bed.

Remember there will be hiccups and sometimes the day (or days) can get really stressed. It’s normal! Sometimes just surviving is the best that we can do. The internet is not working? Your children are getting way too much screen time – and that is the best you can do for YOU need a break? It’s okay! You are doing an amazing job. Tomorrow is another day.

My Children Are Bored (aka HELP!!!)

With all those children at home, it can be a bit overwhelming.  With schools and yeshivos closing, along with many public events, and children not being able to play with friends even, it can be hard to keep them busy and out of trouble; aka, hard for us to keep sane!

It is definitely a stressful time, never mind who has much time now to think about what all this really mean. For us homeschoolers, it is more like a huge winter storm when all the friends are home from school, but homeschooling families just chug along with school as if nothing is wrong. It does get a bit different when the storm lasts several days and normal out of the house activities are not available, so we can get cabin fever as well, just takes a bit longer for us.

I have our two boys who are in yeshiva, home with me, and very happy (in various ways) that they are able to keep up with their classes online.

To try to keep everyone sane, here is a very small starter list. (If you have anything else that would be helpful to others, let me know and I can add it to the list!):

(As with all things internet-related, even though I have been to these sites personally, please do your own research as well and only use what best fits your family.)

Room613 – Offering interactive, live classes for Jewish homeschoolers.

Yeshivas Mordechai HaTzaddik – Put on by the Chofetz Chaim. Call in Monday-Thursdays at 12pm, 1pm, 2pm and 3pm EST. 30 min presentations start on the hour and include recesses and raffles! 646-726-9977

They also have The Children’s Hotline available 24 hours a day
212-444-1119, 718-305-6960, 845-738-1066.

Torah Live – Torah Live is offering free access to their accounts on 60 day increments – If you or your school would like to take advantage of this opportunity, go to http://www.torahlive.com/schools and use promo code TORAH.
Aleph Beta – at the top of the page they have a link for those who are stuck at home for free access.a
Chabad.org – is a great resource to begin with, but they have a wonderful children’s site filled with games and videos.
Akhlah
Torahtots
Chinuch.org– Is a Torah U’Mesorah website that has resources available to download for all age levels and all Jewish subject areas.

Want to help with the secular side of things as well?

Khan Academy – Includes extensive interactive math classes, along with coding. It also has so much more available, and all for free!

There are many places where one can download out of copyright books to read on a computer or to print out for free.

Gateway to the Classics (used to be Mainlesson.com) Has a huge database of children’s books. Click on “Library” and then you can go to the “Browse” link to browse by author or by title.
Gutenberg.org
Manybooks.net
Google Books

Want audiobooks instead? Try:
Librivox
Gateway to the Classics – Click on “Library” and then go to “Listen”
Other resources can include Amazon Kindle books.

Great time to pick up some new language that sounds fun!

Duolingo – can be done on the computer or app. There are others, but this is the one that I use.

Other ideas:

Take the time to reconnect. About 4 years ago I bought a small spiral notebook for each of us in the family.  I tried to remember a few times a week to give each person their book and told them to write one thing they are greatful for.  We have not done them in 2.5 years. Tonight, I decided to bring them out again. IY”H, we will be using them most nights.

In a time of technology, some old forms have been forgotten.  Now would be a great time to bring them out. Have your children draw pictures or write cards or small letters to someone. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends.  It does not have to be long, just something small. The mail them. In the snail mail. 🙂 Maybe they can be “penpals” with their best friend who lives next door – if you can get out – paste the note on the front door in the evening and they can paste one on your door the next night!

Start a Reading Time (or Quiet Time), perhaps in the afternoon or evening after supper.  Take 30-60 minutes and everyone reads a book.

We might not understand exactly why Hashem has decided this was the best thing for us, but let us say “Thank You!” and take advantage of all that was thrown at us!

If you have any other ideas, please leave a comment, I am sure there are many other people who will be excited to hear about them.

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. 🙂

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!

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!

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

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*

KIMG1640
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 🙂

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!

<3

Nachamu, Nachamu – Comfort

KIMG0964***I’m a week late in posting this – it was ready before Tisha B’Av, but I was having computer issues with inserting the pictures and then I was about to upload the pictures and come to find out it erased most of my blog. Guess it was not meant to be. Here is try 2!***

Time flies when your having fun, or just too busy to sit down and write. 😉 Between the 100 degree heat, adventures in Big Bend National Park, cooling down at the Macdonald Observatory to view the Moon, Saturn, as well as Jupiter and Venus, back to the 100 degree heat, staying cool inside, doing some cleaning and (finally) some organizing, and finding nice places to go walking in nature, I have felt constantly busy.

It has been a long time since we started our adventure to our new place with moving four times in about 4 months, unpacking an entire house in the few weeks before Pesach,KIMG0893 trying to finish up schooling, or what was called schooling for this year, and trying to figure out why things are just not settling down. It’s been about 3 months since Pesach finished, I thought we would be more than settled into a routine and start to feel “at home.” After all, when there are no boxes left in the house, it starts to “look” like it might be home, even if it does not feel like home. There really is nothing from stopping us from at least acting like we are at home. What we think should happen is often times different that what really happens. Reality was that I felt I have been treading water for the last 10 months, starting from the few weeks before we moved. I have been forgetting about appointments the last month, among other things, and we really have not been doing much schooling, so what has been going on?

No schedule. Oh, we have tried various schedules at different times over the months, and we can seem to stick with it for the most part, until the next change in our live (ie KIMG0813move) and then we go through a phase of what feels like chaos for we are not really doing school but we are busy doing needed things. Every month or two that is what has happened. After Pesach, when we finally were able to breath for a few minutes and realize that “this is it,” I tried to do schooling for a month or so to finish up the year, but I never could really get into a routine and always felt I was just treading water, never going anywhere. Yes, the boys went camping one week with Grandpa, we all went with Grandpa a few weeks later and last week I had one with the yearly-taking-of one-boy-out-with-Grandpa now. (Yes, I think Grandpa is happy we moved down here!) But still, I should be able to keep a schedule!

Then it dawned on me. What I am feeling is the lack of grounding. We are in a new place with new friends and Daddy has a new job with new hours, and there is nothing that is familiar for us (me) to hang on to when things change. Before, when our schedule would change, Daddy’s hours were fairly constant, and if his hours were crazy for a while, we had our daily school routine that was constant. There was always something to fall back on. Here, it’s been almost 10 months of all newness. However, over the last couple of weeks I think I finally figured it out.

It is summer and we can do our summer schedule, and really should do our summer schedule. Which is…basically nothing. We daven, do our chitas and are supposed to do our mishnayos and that is about it. It may not seem like a schedule, but we schedule in all2015-06-29_17-47-18 the nothingness, which when you schedule it in, it really is a schedule. It is something that we know, something that we do every summer, it is our grounding. We might be in a new city, a new house, have new friends and need to figure out Daddy’s new work schedule, but we have our familiar summer schedule. It has been such a relief and has felt like a huge load has been taken off my shoulders. I have been able to do some organizing and even gotten most of the way to organizing our new year. We have our new homeschool cabinet – the wet bar area that has been refitted with a bookcase (should not be surprising. 😉  ) I have decided on what books we will be reading this year and have purchased most of them. I have completed a first draft of the secular learning schedule (I do not feel quite comfortable with it but it is a really good start and I’ll mull it over for a few days.) I am starting to feel like I am standing on my feet on solid ground again.

Mr. Little has turned 6 and has lost his first tooth! He is so big that he planned for himself a birthday party and invited all his friends over. The only issue is that he did this all by himself without my knowledge! Baruch Hashem he did let me know on his plans the day before his birthday and so when I got phone calls from the children themselves asking if they were invited over for his birthday party, I was mentally prepared and told them that we were just having cake and they were welcome to join us in half an hour. 🙂

We just came from a very low time in the Jewish year, Tisha B’Av, the time when we 2015-06-29_17-46-47mourn our loss, not only of the Bais Hamikdash, but of the loss of our closeness to our Creator, our King, our Father. The good part is that once we are low, the only way to go is up. After all our moves and all the changes and challenges, I am finally feeling that our home is on the up as well. We have hit bottom. The elevator only goes up from here.

We just had Shabbos Nachamu, which is a special Shabbos for us personally, not just the comforting Shabbos after Tisha B’Av. (Okay, okay, DH and I got married Erev Shabbos Nachamu. 🙂  ) This year we also had dear friends surprise us and came over to spend it with us. It was so nice to visit with familiar faces. A beautiful family with a girl, and boys who were aged in between all our boys. It was a blast and also a comfort. How befitting. Nothing is coincidence. 😀 I feel refreshed and excited about our new year. I feel there are a lot of wonderful things in store for us this year. Wishing “y’all” all the best in your preparations for the coming school year!