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 – 9:45 Davening Circle (*free and open to all member levels)
10:00 – 10:30 Jewish Thought: Hanhagos Tzadikim (Customs of the Righteous)
10:45 – 11:15 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 – 3:00 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 – 9:45 Davening Circle
10:00 – 10:30 Jewish Thought: Hanhagos Tzadikim
10:45 – 11:15 Chumash: Parshat HaShavua/weekly Torah portion (textual study)
11:30 – 12:00 Halacha II: Rambam’s Mishneh Torah (various topics)

Afternoon
1:00 – 1:30 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 KnowledgeYediot Klaliot & Musagim b’Yahadut / Fundamental concepts in Judaism (based on the Torah u’Mesorah books and other sources) 
3:15 – 3:45 Elective Hebrew Language Arts

Wednesdays
Morning
9:30 – 9:45 Davening Circle
10:00 – 10:30 Jewish Thought: Hanhagos Tzadikim
10:45 – 11:15 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 – 1:30 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 – 9:45 Davening Circle
10:00 – 10:30 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 – 1:30 Mitzvot & Halachot in the Weekly Parsha – Midrash, Sefer haChinuch, Ben Ish Chai, and more!
1:45 – 2:15 Shabbat Laws & Customs
2:30 – 3:00 Insights into the Weekly Parsha (not textual study) 
3:15 – 3:45 Elective for boys ages 7–9: Kriah, Stories, Parsha & More!
4:00 – 4:30 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.

Thoughts on Tisha B’Av

I hope you will forgive me if this post is not so into homeschooling like I would usually write.

I don’t do well with fasts usually, I think the big reason is because I have children and I have to move around.  My boys are, B”H, all getting bigger, and I was able to rest in bed most of the morning. With some migraine medicine I am still very functional, slow, but functional and for that I’m very thankful.

As I am typing, I have approximately 1.5 hours left of the fast.  Yesterday I went to a little learning group and as we were leaving, we were discussing that really is not that we should all have easy fasts (though we hope we all do,) it is that we should all have a purposeful fast.  All day today I tried to figure out how to have a purposeful fast.  What is the meaning of today, the saddest day in the Jewish calendar?  Of course there are the physical things we do such as not eating or drinking for 25 hours, sitting on low stools for half the day, not wearing leather and not anointing ourselves, but these are only for the outside, the physical body, what about the spiritual part of our body, our souls?  What are we suppose to do for that?

So, the big question is – what happened to cause this day to be such a sad day?  We know that there have been so many calamities that happened on this day – both the first and second Bait Hamikdash were destroyed, the expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290, the Inquisition of Spain in 1492, World War I was declared, and many others (see Ohr Samayah).  Why?  Why on this particular day?

We know over 2000 years ago, Hashem had just taken us out of Egypt with 10 amazing plagues, He split the sea for us to cross, gave us heavenly food to eat and we had just received the Torah.  We were poised and ready to enter the promised land, the land flowing with milk and honey.  But even after all of this, we were not sure.  Was it really a land flowing with milk and honey?  Could we REALLY believe Hashem?  Huh?  After all that we still doubted Hashem?  It is true.  We wanted to send spies to the promised land to verify what Hashem really said was true.  Hashem let us.  Twelve spies were sent to scope the land and then come and relate a report to the rest of us.  Then, a terrible thing happened. Ten of the spies told a negative report.  They spoke lashon hara.  Not only that, we believed the lashon hara and we spend the entire night crying.  Crying for nothing.

Hashem then told us that since we cried for nothing that night, the night of Tisha B’Av, that would be a day where we would cry for something.  Wow!  Hashem was being so cruel you may say.  Just because we cried, Hashem made this day to be full of terrible calamity for us.  Isn’t Hashem suppose to be loving and kind and caring?  This does not sound like a loving and kind and caring Hashem!

Let us take a look at the report that the spies brought back.  Yes, they said the land was indeed flowing with milk and honey and the huge fruits they brought back showed that.  However, there were also giants that lived in the land.  The spies said “בְעֵינֵינוּ כַּחֲגָבִים וְכֵן הָיִינוּ בְּעֵינֵיהֶם” (Bamidbar/Number 23:33) – “…In our eyes, we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we were in their eyes.”  Meaning, we FELT like grasshoppers so they must have thought we were.  The giants never said they thought we were, but we thought so, therefore we must be.  Grasshoppers cannot defeat giants.  We gave up before we even tried!

Who are we to say what we are capable or not capable of achieving without even trying?  We did not believe Hashem – the All Knowing, the One who created each one of us, the One who knows better than we what we are capable of, the One who performed all those miracles – and instead, we believed the lashon hara spoken.  It turns out it was a punishment that we brought upon ourselves.  It was us who turned this day into a day of mourning.

My older boys have been kvetching about each other all week.  Someone is always seemingly hurting another, and it is obviously always on purpose.  Obviously… to them, but not to me.  I finally sat them down and told them (again) the story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza.  In short, a wealthy man had a friend, Kamtza, and an enemy, Bar Kamtza.  This man threw a party and the servant accidentally invited Bar Kamtza.  Bar Kamtza thought this man wanted to make up with him and went to the party, only to find out that it was all a mistake and the host was upset his enemy showed up.  After repeated attempts by Bar Kamtza to pay for part, half and then all of the party just so he would not feel embarrassed about being thrown out, his pleas were refused.  Not a single rabbi or guest at the party said anything to help alleviate the anger and tension between the two men.  In the end, Bar Kamtza set up a trick to get the Caesar upset with the Jews.  Not only did the Caesar get upset, but he destroyed the Bais Hamikdash. (See a more complete story here.)

We sat and talked about what that all means – to have strife amongst people, to always feel that people are out to get you.  What does that kind of thinking bring you?  The destruction of the Bais Hamikdash.  When we have strife with others, we are thinking only of ourselves and not anyone else.  We talked about how lucky they were to be able to become close friends with each other.  Most siblings are friends with peers, but not their siblings.  Friends will come and go, but siblings will always be there, no matter where everyone lives.  Baruch Hashem, my sister and I are very close, however, that only happened after we were both married. My boys have the opportunity to create an even greater bond by starting out loving each other now.  If I hand someone a stick, they will be able to break it very easily, however, if I give them 20 sticks in a bundle, they will most likely not be able to break it.  The same goes for brothers and sisters who are close and care for each other.  When we are all united, we cannot be broken.

Okay, so they understand that they need to love each other and help each other, but what really does that mean?  That means they need to start giving each other the benefit of the doubt.  Instead of coming to me crying every time someone touches them so that they can tell me what the other person did and get that person into trouble, it means they need to believe that people are not out to get them.  When someone touches them, or hurts them, they need to believe that person did not purposely mean to hurt them.  Perhaps the person did not know they were there, perhaps the person was just wanting to get their attention and did not realized what they did hurt.  It also could be that you got them angry and they reacted.

Whatever the case is, if we can have a more positive outlook at everyone – giving them the benefit of the doubt, that will prevent strife and help create love for others.  When we have love for each other we are united and hard to break – just like the bundle of sticks.  As this fast is coming to a close (just a couple more minutes over here – and yes, it has taken me that long to write and cuddle kids, and send them to bed!) let us take a few moments and reflect on our lives.  How is it that *I* can create less strife?  Who am I angry with and how can I resolve the conflict?  Are they really out to get me, or am I taking things out of context?  Should I be giving anyone the benefit of the doubt?  How can I create more ahavas yisroel (literally: love of Israel – more love for each Jew)?

When we are united we are no longer thinking just about ourselves, we are watching out for the entire Jewish nation.  We are also more careful to not speak lashon hara.  It is up to each one of us.  You may be thinking this is a hard and unimaginable task, however, remember not to quit before you try.  We *CAN* do it, we just have to try.  Let us not cry for no reason any more.  Let us trust in Hashem that we really can.  It is at this time Hashem will bring Moshiach, the third and final Bais Hamikdash and the final redemption, speedily in our days.

Musings on the 4th Torah Ed Homeschool Conference

The day after the conference, we finally made our way back home.  We left Motzei Shabbos, spent the night somewhere on the road, and drove in to the conference Sunday morning. We left a little early but with only about 4.5 hours of sleep the night before, we were exhausted, and ended up spending another night on the road.

I was not scheduled to talk until after lunch, and that left me free the entire morning to listen to the wonderful speakers.  It was absolutely wonderful.  It is hard for me to sit here and write about how I feel,  but I can say that I learned something from everyone, some had more relevant information for our particular family than others, but everyone was great.

By the time my turn came, I felt very small, after all, I have only been homeschooling for 7 years, and here I was trying to present material to parents who have been at it much longer than me!  After sitting all morning, listening to wonderful parents and their stories , their encouragement and advice, was I going to be able to stand up to them?  Would I be able to help and encourage others as well?  I hope I did!  I asked my wonderful husband how I did, and he smiled and told me it was great, but then added that he is a little biased to begin with. 😉

I think I will write a few things that really touched me personally.

The first speaker was Mrs. Susan Lapin.  She is a vetran homeschooler – she started homeschooling before most people in the secular world even heard of the word.  One of the first things she mentioned was that yes, her homeschooled children DID get married – and at least one got married to another homeschooled child.  For those who are concerned about shidduchim, that is a nice piece of chizuk 🙂 She basically told us how she and her husband  got started into homeschooling.  Her oldest daughter was “loosing her sparkle.” They did not know what was wrong, but they did know that school was negative for her.  If they would keep her at home, then at least it would be a neutral environment, and that is better than negative. They did not know what they were going to do, but they did keep her daughter home that next year and instead of just a neutral environment, it ended up being positive.  The next year all children were pulled out.

Mr. Shoshana Zohari was another speaker that I listened too.  She was talking about children in middle school, Bar/Bat Mitzvah and beyond. One of the points she talked about was about how she makes being Jewish fun and exciting.  Anything they can do to keep the excitement, from singing and dancing and playing on plastic drums while davening to singing with happiness every day at lunch while everyone bentches together.  Yes, it is hard to keep the motivation on the parent’s part, but I think if we can keep the goal in mind, it will help encourage us during those hard days.

I just want to mention my thanks to all the people who were involved in making the conference and gave of their time and energy to create such a wonderful, successful event – from the organizing to attending, to the babysitting – which I think is one of the most important parts.  It was wonderful to be able to spend time with my husband and not have to worry about the children and know they are taken care of!

For those who were not able to attend, or like me, had to choose between speakers for they doubled up on speakers for most of the day, I understand they will be posting audios of the talks online.  When I find out where they are, I will BE”N post the link!

A Lesson in Lashon Hara

I mentioned in a previous post that homeschooling parents like to take real-time life situations that happen to them, their children or otherwise and make a lesson out of it.  It is a way of getting out of using a worksheet or finding/making up a story to prove the point.  With a real-time life situation everything is laid out perfectly for us.  This weekend was one of those times.

I hope that I am following all the proper procedures for lashon hara. I did some review of the halachas before writing this post. I have tried to make everything ambiguous here in the posting.

“Who is the man who desires life, who loves days to see goodness? Guard your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceitfully.” [Tehillim/Psalms 34:13-14]

My husband has a subscription to a business magazine.  As we sat down to dinner he asked me what I knew about a certain topic in the magazine.  I had heard about the topic but did not know much about it.  He proceeded to tell me all about the article – one person felt a certain something was bad, blogged about it on their website, and what ensued was the shutdown of 80% of a person’s business which affected about 6,000 people’s lives.  All in the course of a mere 6 weeks.  My husband told me all about the business and how the certain product was made, and then he told me about what was written in the blog. What he told me made my blood boil. If what my husband told me was true, the accuser (without much thought to their own words, or thoughts about doing a real investigation and really trying hard to see the other point of view to make a proper decision,) just slandered another person’s business – FALSELY!

Since the discussion with my husband, I have read the article in the magazine.  I have read the blog article of the accuser in question, as well as doing my own investigation to try to find out the truth.  What really struck me was not that I disagreed with the person, but that the person seemed to take the fact that their words destroyed thousands of lives almost instantaneously, very lightly.  Very, very lightly.  Even if one believes that something is hurting others and something needs to be done about it, that fact that one feels they need to take the livelihood away from thousands of workers, they should not just say “oh well.”  One needs to understand the implication of “mere words.”

I told my husband that we needed to talk to our children about this.  We need to use real life examples that they can possibly understand to try to instill in them what our words can do.  Yes, words can create – the world was created with 10 sayings, but our words can also be used to destroy.  We talked in depth today at lunch.  I told the boys both sides of the story.  I told them what I found out with my investigation.  I then told them to think about it and we would finish talking at a later time.  At supper I brought up the topic again.  I asked leading questions like, “was anything wrong with either person”, “what was wrong,” and “why was it wrong and what should the person have done if they felt very strongly about it?”

I know that one talk about this important topic is not enough.  I do not think one can learn too much about this topic. (I just recently finished “Guard Your Tongue” with my challah baking friends.)  I also know that we did not cover everything that we could cover today.  However, I feel it is better to give small amounts of information at a time, for they will not soak up very much if you give a lot at a time.

Now, for a change in thinking, I’m off to go grocery shopping and then to finish my talk for the Homeschool Conference which is in only 2 weeks! (Yikes!)  😀

Pesach

Well, as Pesach is getting close to being finished, I have decided that I actually have time to sit down and write, though my luck the boys will come in from outside or the little one will get up from his nap before I can get very far.

“Ma nishtana hashanah hazeh mikol hashanos” (Why is this year different from other years)?

For some reason this year was very different with all preparations than any in the past.  When the boys were younger, I was the soul teacher, and it was easy to take a morning or afternoon and we would all head to one room in the house, tear it apart and clean it.  The next day, or the day after, the same thing would happen to another part of the house, until it was all done.  I do not remember what happened last year, but this year it was a little different.  Firstly, last year I made a mistake – I started in the bedrooms and then worked my way to the basement, (leaving the kitchen for last.)  It was a mistake for by the time we did the search for all the chometz, my dear husband was very upset for the rooms had been lived in again and there was absolutely no way we did any cleaning! (I think I vaguely remember after him yelling at me for the umpteenth time, telling him that next year he could do the cleaning…..)

So, this year I vowed not to let that happen again.  I decided to start with the least used room, and work up to the most used (messiest) room in the house, and then the kitchen.  There was only one problem – now that my boys did set classes online with their Rebbe, how was I going to grab their help for any length of time to clean?  We ended up doing a room on a Sunday, and then on a non-school weekday (a Friday – yes, we only do a 4 day “schedule” – more on that in a later post, G-d willing) tackling the basement.  We are lucky, there is not much in the basement (on purpose), and it was just cleaned a week or so before for our company that came over.  The rest of the house I did the week before Pesach.

Why did I leave it so late?  Well, other than just not wanting to drive myself crazy and work in the evenings and get to sleep late, I prefer to take the easy way out.  Both cellars were closed off, as well as the garage, a few of the closets and the pantry.  I also take the easy way out and make simple meals.  I have a nice recipe I use for a whole turkey – I can make a soup, roast turkey, and shnitzel, in less than 2 hours.  That is about 4 meals worth of main dishes.

My husband took all the boys to the zoo (2 hours away!) for the day, and that let me clean our room, as well as all the laundry.  I won’t mention the bedroom took 4 hours (ouch!)  As our room gets to be the “storage” room on a regular basis, it was so nice to get it back again!

I did not teach the week before Pesach, however, the boys attended their online classes.  We enjoyed our seders.  The boys look forward to jumping frogs, hail landing in their grape juice, and the largest locusts seen.  And, while the rest of the parents are taking their children all over town this week, I am taking yet another week off of school and hiding in my room, letting the boys read, run outside, go to the library, and try to fly a kite.  Sometimes I feel like a “bad” parent – but then again, I remember I spend quality time with my boys the entire year, and do not have to try to cram it all in to a few days at a time several times a year.  It was not all so bad, they did have a bochor who came over for one afternoon and spent several hours with them teaching them different things, as well as another playdate for my youngest the next day.

We are also a one car family, and the weather the last few days has been weird, and I have been letting my husband take the van instead of riding to work on the scooter in the rain.  And now, it is nice and sunny, no hail, no rain, and we do not have a car to go to the (local) zoo.  Perhaps tomorrow 🙂  And yes, I know tomorrow is erev Yom Tov again, but there is plenty of time to cook and go to the zoo and take showers!

So, for those that read this during Pesach – I wish all of you a wonderful rest of the Yom Tov, and for those that read this afterwards, hope you had a wonderful and Pesach.  Hope all of us are able to pull free from our enslavement of our Egypt this year!

(Oh, and yes, all boys came into the room, but they were kind enough to let me finish typing! Yeah!)

Keeping up with… the schools

I used to want to make all the costumes for my children.  But that was when they were still little.  Now, I’m too busy and it is just too time consuming (and probably more expensive) to do it myself.  I admit, I opt for the quickest, easiest, and usually the least expensive way… I order the costumes online (I do most of my shopping online.)

Me to one of the boys, as we are ordering: “Ok, what do you want to be for Purim?”
Son: “SHAKESPEARE!”

Only a homeschooled child…… 🙂 This is coming from a boy who struggles to read, but is able to read one of his books.  He enjoys it and he is very proud of that fact that he can read it.  This book is all about the life of, well, you guessed it, Shakespeare.  Of course I did try to do a search for Shakespeare, but we only found a costume for Juliet.  He settled for a policeman.

Many religious homeschooling parents wonder if their child is learning all the religious materials that the children are learning in school.  It does not seem like the secular subjects are too much of a worry, but it is all the hebrew/chumash/dikduk/navi/mishnayos, etc.  After all, only teachers in schools are qualified to teach the religious stuff.  If a child is not in a school, then that child will not learn what needs to be learned, and that child’s neshama is deprived. I have to mention that not all communities are negative towards homeschoolers.

Baruch Hashem, our community is one of those accepting communities.  We did have someone come talk to us, not because they felt we were not qualified to teach our children, but he was concerned about the rest of the children – the more children in cheder, the better the children are yiddishkiet wise (of the ones in cheder), and the fact that we have several children not in cheder means the rest of the children are losing out on the possible positive effects of having that many more children in the classroom.  (I won’t mention that this person’s wife came up to me one time asking about homeschooling – the cost of the several children they had in school was such a strain on them.  Her husband promptly (and in a nice comical way) put a stop to the conversation!)

Of course, like all other parents, we want to give our children the best possible yiddishkiet background as we can, and are always wondering if we are doing the right thing, what can be better, etc.  When we were first starting out, the main website that I found was Torah U’Mesorah.  I was able to request a catalog so that we could purchase different workbooks and textbooks.  They also have a sister site: Chinuch.org.  It is a religious website that has content that is contributed by teachers for other teachers to use and the best part is that it is free! When my oldest was in first grade, I found a wonderful workbook/worksheet set for Parshas Beraishis on Chinuch.org.  I also ordered a workbook on the Morning Brachos/Shema. This was the kind of stuff they learn in the schools.  My son was going to have the same education. So our grade started, and I was very excited about the Chumash worksheets. For a few months we worked through our sheets and book.

Then, one day, it happened.  My son and I were sitting at the kitchen table doing our various lessons.  I told my son it was time for Chumash.  “Do I have to do it?”  “Yes.” “Can’t I take out my brachos book today instead?”  Huh?  What?  I have heard that if one is excited about something (and shows it), the other person will get excited about it too.  I *THOUGHT* I was showing my excitement for Chumash — I personally preferred the Chumash over the brachos book!  And here was my son telling me he hated Chumash.  Now, that was the last thing I wanted.  I did NOT want my son to hate learning Torah.  That day I told my son that yes, we did have to do Chumash.  However, I put it away after that lesson.  We finished our brachos book, and I spent some more time focusing on parsha for the next several months. After this incident, I had to rethink my whole thinking process regarding our homeschooling.

What was my goal?  Was my goal to teach what they taught in school? It took a bit of soul searching, but I finally came up with something concrete.  I do know that there are other train of thoughts on this matter, but I need something that works for our family, for our children.  My goal is not to necessarily teach what others teach.  My goal is to have our children love Hashem and to love Torah and mitzvos.  I want my children to know how to learn, to want to learn, and to have the time to learn.  Unlike learning how to read, or learning math skills, you do not have to go through Torah in a specific order.  Learning is not what how much you have learned.  I believe learning is the fact that one IS learning and loves to learn. If one loves to learn, then they will continue to learn and the knowledge will be there, and hopefully, and then some. Once that was laid out very clearly in my mind it became easier to decide what to do.

I focused on what we were doing, and at the same time I kept, at the back of my mind, the idea that I really did want my son to learn Chumash, and I kept an open eye out for when I should try again.  About a year or so after we stopped Chumash my son came up to me and started this conversation:

Son: “Mom, why am I not learning Chumash?”
Me: “Did you want to learn it?”
Son: “Yes.”
Me, while smiling so big inside: “Ok, we’ll start!”

He did not start immediately for I believe we started our summer, and we do take summers off in general, at least for a good part of it.  We all need our breaks.  However, he did get to start his Chumash as soon as we started school again, not with me, but with his new Rebbe, Rabbi Resnick.  Room613.net had just started up, and I enrolled my son in his classes.

Did I do the right thing?  You tell me.  My son loves to learn – Chumash, Navi, Mishnayos… he enjoys it all.  Would I make the same decision over again?  I do not have to say it, but, yes, yes I would.

Wishing you all a Freilichin Purim!

Our Vacation During Non-Vacation Week

!משנכנס אדר מרבים בשמחה
When Adar enters, happiness increases!

It’s Rosh Chodesh Adar, and there is a lot of good mazal (“luck” – for lack of a better word, when I find one, I’ll replace it) in this month.  We are told this month is a good month for success – if one needs to start a new business, get a new job, or just needs success in other matters, this is the month to start things.  (Permission was encouraged by the artist for everyone to share the image to encourage the spirit of Purim!)

This week was vacation week for the public (and some private) schools.  It was not supposed to be a vacation week over here.  The nice thing about homeschooling is that we get to pick our vacation, and it does not have to correspond to what anyone else is doing.  However, for a non-vacation week, it sure turned out more like a vacation week – that too is the beauty of homeschooling.  We get to change our plans and have unexpected “vacation”, and just make up for it later, either by not taking a vacation at a later date, or by adding a few days onto our school calendar.

Not quite sure what we did at the beginning of the week, but the boys had a few days off from their learning with their Rebbe (room613.net), and on Monday we got most of our learning done in 2 hours – all three boys!  We learned something new – one of my boys is a late reader, and begged me to let him do his reading opposed to having me do all his reading for him.

Tuesday I decided it was time to clean.  It was a hard morning.  I have one child who, because of his personality and his wonderful attributes, just cannot clean!  It does not matter what creative way I try, it is like pulling teeth to get him to do anything.  I have to say, I personally clean his room several times a year when I get fed up with it and fed up with trying to get it clean otherwise.  Last time I did it was about a month ago when I bought some nice Closet Maid cubbies, along with the cloth baskets to go inside, thinking if there was something to store things in, it would help, at least a little.  But this time the room was worse than ever. After all the other boys and I cleaned the rest of the house, and after trying for 3 hours to get him to clean, I went in and spent an hour cleaning.  I thought the funny part was when he came in and huffed and fell on top of the bed complaining that he does all the work in the house (as I’m finishing up cleaning his room!)  I was not quite sure what to say to him at that point.  Our house is still fairly clean (and surprisingly so is this boy’s room!)

Yesterday we had to go to the scout store to get needed items for all the boys (and even the 2 year old).  Anyone who has boys and lives in the US, Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts is definitely recommended! (There are only 2 countries in the world that do NOT have co-ed Scouts – the US and I *think* South Africa — definitely not Canada nor Israel).  The scout store is like a totally kosher candy store.  Normally, the boys need to look for hechshers (kosher symbols) on the candy, but in a totally kosher candy store, the only limit is what I say.  Same goes for a toy store.  Normally I say “NO” to most things the boys ask me (and  then I feel like a bad mom), however, in the scout store, I just let them roam around and “oo” and “ahhh” at everything on the shelves and then pick out what they want.

All three boys sold a lot of (kosher) popcorn as a fundraiser for scouting (totaling around $4000 worth of popcorn! Yeah boys!)  For prizes, they each got gift cards.  Two boys chose cards for the scout store… and yesterday was D-Day.  So, we made 3 different kinds of slime, I have a 2 year old who was excited for his “TV”  (translation: ATV – All Terrain Vehicle) that was made of wood that he will be painting this afternoon.  I had string tied across my living room and had space derby vehicles whizzing by.  I have 2 bear bells that keep dinging around the house (yes – bear bells — bells to wear in the woods when there might be a bear, and since I could not come up with a good reason not to get them, they got them for of course, the scout motto is “Be Prepared!”)  I actually felt like the stereotypical “Homeschool Parent” (see the image on my previous post!)

Today, my oldest went out for a scout camp out.  For some reason, no one would go into the car when it was time.  We were all finally in the car, I was going to pick up a boy down the street as well…… and then the car wouldn’t start.  Baruch Hashem, the other mother was home and was able to take both boys to the camp.  I purchased an AAA membership a few months ago (for the first time in about 8 years), and gave them a call.

Now, here is where religious-homeschool parents will take out their creative juices, for instead of just learning from a story or a book in school about things such as middos (character traits) and other lessons that need learning, homeschooling children many times learn through experience.  After AAA came and boosted the van, we drove down to the mechanics to get a new battery.  On the way, the boys and I discussed the events of the morning.  Even though it looks like it was a bad morning – the van died, we missed the market, and we needed to get a new battery – we have to understand that we do not know what MIGHT have happened if things did not go the way they did.  Hashem set up today months ago and put us in a position that we decided we needed an AAA membership.  Perhaps if the van did not die, we would have left on time and would have gotten into an accident.  Perhaps if the battery did not die this morning, it would have died in a very inconvenient time and place (like on the road in between towns, etc.)  Each experience we have, each decision we make, molds us.  By taking being able to teach Torah thoughts and attitudes through living examples ingrains the lessons inside the neshama.

Well, I was going to talk a bit about our Limudei Kodesh studies, for that is always a hot topic for Jewish Homeschoolers, but I guess that is part of homeschooling too – sometimes we step out of our routines!

We made a decision…. Now what?

Firstly, I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a wonderful Tu B’Shevat.  It is an especially wonderful chag (holiday) in our house.  Not only is it the birthday of the trees, it is the birthday of boy #2 and it is nice to take the day and make it even more special.  So, I am wishing my 10 year old a wonderful birthday!  (The cake is supposed to resemble a pomegranate cut open. 🙂  )

This post is actually a continuation of the previous posting.  The first step was coming up with our decision.  The next step was deciding what in the world I was going to do. Actually, these two steps were made simultaneously.  As I was investigating, I investigated different curricula, but it was not until I found the answers to my questions did I feel I was ready.  And when I was ready, I already had the material I was going to use.

As I mentioned, during the six months of research, I investigated all sorts of curricula and methods, and given the fact that this was the first year homeschooling, and I was not sure I could/would find the time to create my own, (and why should I re-invent the wheel anyways, if something else is out there?) I settled upon Calvert’s homeschooling package.  This appealed to me for Calvert sends everything one needs to start homeschooling, including pencils, paper and a pencil sharpener!  What more could I ask for?  And, at just under $700 (which included teacher support the entire year, and ATS – optional testing/grading by accredited teachers,) it was 92% cheaper than our day school.  What a deal!

At the time we had 3 boys, the youngest being only 18 months.  I was going to homeschool our oldest only, who was going to be almost 5, and entering grade 1.  (We felt that he had more than the mental capability at such a young age and with his personality it would be better to push him than keep him behind.)

Calvert lists the average amount of time required for each of their subjects, so before our new school year was to begin, I made a schedule – starting at about 9 am.  I quickly ran into a big problem.  For kindergarten, they were suggesting 2.5-3 hours of school work — Ok, so 9am-12pm.  BUT, that was not going to work!  I was going to have one boy at a playgroup, and I was going to have my baby (ok, toddler) at home, and there was nap time, as well as having to feed him and play with him – he was not a newborn, and so just having him sit next to us was not going to work.  I had to have everything done by lunch time, for that was when I had to go get my other child and spend time with him too!  How could I homeschool?

As with most people, I was never homeschooled and until this time, I do not recall ever meeting (let alone talk too) another homeschool parent/child.  People get used to a school setting: Go to school by a certain time in the morning.  Bell rings.  Take attendance, class.  Bell rings.  Change class/recess.  Bell rings.  Lunch.  Bell rings.  Afternoon classes and recess.  The bell rings for these as well.  We are conditioned with the bell.  Also, how we are taught is similar throughout almost all schools – Textbooks and worksheets.

Then the breakthrough happened.  I learned something very important to homeschooling, something seemingly so obvious, but not obvious to most people:

 You do not have to follow a standard school schedule.

What this means is that I do not have to do a 9-12 school, I can teach whenever I want/need/have time too.  If I want to start before the standard school starting time, then I can.  If I want to take the entire morning off for it does not fit our family schedule, and teach only in the afternoons, then I can.  If I wanted to teach a little in the mornings and then a little in the afternoon when the two younger boys went down for a nap, I was allowed that too.  I realized I was allowed to think out of the box.  I was free to be different.  There is no “one size fits all” approach in homeschooling.  As I was to find out over the years, this applies to the teaching style and materials used as well.

With this enlightenment, my eyes were opened, and all of a sudden this big heavy burden was lifted from my shoulders.  I was actually getting really excited.  I could see that I could do it, and I was not worried if things did not quite work out.  I knew that I was allowed to try things a different way.

This was not going to be the first time that things just “seemed to click”, and I am sure there will be a few more to come.  As I am learning more and more lately, homeschooling is learning for everyone in the family, not just the children.