It’s Here Already?!?!?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life Goes On For He’s Fully 5!

20140801_182059These last several weeks have been hard to do the things that I need to do.  I wake up, do our breakfast routine and then the computer gets opened. Facebook news read with all the news from the morning hours in Israel. Muqata’s Facebook page gets scanned for those unfortunate brave souls that are no longer physically with us along with any other links. I do my morning routine with the boys and try not to look until around lunch time and then the news article reading starts again. And again in the afternoon and evening. It is like an addiction. And then it hits me. Looking at the what my friends and family are doing in Israel I see one thing in common (besides all the comments about the mamads (bomb shelters,) They are still going to museums, still going to the beach, still going out for dinner, etc. Still. Yes, there multiple sirens in the day that do interrupt things, however they do not let it stop their living. They work, they play, they learn, they live.

I might be physically away from what is happening, but emotionally and spiritually we are close, we all are. We have our soldier, our chayal, that we daven for and learn for, along with the rest of the soldiers. But just like my friends and family in Israel, we too have to keep on living. We alter our day a little bit and we think about different things now but we continue. Life does not stand still.

I was reminded about this need to remember to live life for my little one, who is not so little anymore, turned fully 5 last week (after having both his English and then his Hebrew birthday.) It is not my constant worrying that will make a difference, it is the mitzvos that we do is what is going to really make a difference. I hope that this week will be easier for me to get motiviated and do more of the many things I need to do; organizing for next school year, getting my oldest ready for college, trying to just clean, etc. In other words, I need to remember to live.

As we are closing in on the saddest day of the year, Tisha B’Av (9th of Av), which starts tonight, I have been trying to do some self introspection (a second Rosh Hashanah maybe, or perhaps for once just a really good head start to Rosh Hashanah?) Wishing everyone an easy fast and may we all instill in ourselves baseless love for everyone so we can have the final redemption.

A Freilichen Purim!

20140311_163628Finally, I get a few spare moments to breathe. The last while I have felt like I have been going in circles, but it has usually been good. Somehow I have not been able to get much done other than teach and today I seem to have some time, but with it being a fast day, I am not doing much for I know if I do then it will come back to bite me.

A few weeks ago one little (or big?) boy of 4 decided he was going to be a big boy, and while I was busy teaching his older brothers he went around the house and did chores such as emptying the dishwasher and putting most things away, all by himself and ripping toilet paper for Shabbos (and they were all in even square strips!) When asked why he thought of those ideas, he responded that he did not want his brothers to have to do the work. <3 <3 <3

The weather has been absolutely crazy this winter. It was not so much the snow that came, but the COLD that came along with it. Yeah, yeah, I have friends and family who will remind me that I grew up in the cold and I should be used to it. I’m a wimp, and I’m tired of the cold temperatures hovering around 0 F and below (-17 C and below). I do not mind it staying around the freezing mark; I like the change in weather, the snow, the crisp air, etc. and then the warming up and seeing the new buds. It is also hard to send the boys outside to stretch their legs. Many times we had to tell our oldest not to walk to shul in the mornings for it was just too cold, or icy, or windy. Things were just starting to look a bit warmer this week and it was gorgeous for the chassanah that we attended on Monday, but that was just a little Purim joke. And to mention that many of those people have moved out of the cold climate themselves.

On Tuesday afternoon we played some hookie with the weather rising to about 57 F! Actually, it was not hookie, it was a much needed stretch of the legs for everyone, you see, I feel very proud of myself for when I told my oldest that we were going to play hookie, he looked at me and said, “Huh? What’s20140312_121042 that?” Ditching school and taking advantage of the amazing weather to finally get a chance to stretch legs and soak in some sunshine and fresh air for more than 2 minutes really is part of schooling, and he understands that as such. 😀 Most of the snow was gone and one boy even wore shorts. Then came the rest of the Purim joke – Late Tuesday night/ early Wednesday morning it started to come. It came and it came and it came. Boy, did it come. Within 24 hours we had about 16 inches of white stuff all over the ground. My oldest used the snow blower at least twice on the driveway, the last time being around 5pm. DH and I went out for a Sheva Brachos and came back at around 9 pm and it was a miracle we made it not only home without getting stuck, but into our driveway! The snow was higher than the bottom of our van! And that was just 4 hours worth of it.

Schooling itself has just been okay. I put our schedule up on our living room wall for all to see. It is a good schedule, I just find myself missing out on things every week. I think the problem is more me than the boys. I have to really have my mindset to be ready by 8 am. We are not scheduled to daven until 8:30 am but I have noticed that my mind is just not ready. Something for me to work on. It is nice to have some quiet/me time before we start and I am up and physically ready, just mentally I am not. Perhaps if I take the time the boys are getting themselves ready (7:45-8:30), i.e. cleaning one bathroom, sweeping the floor, or other small task, I will feel a bit accomplished right at the beginning and that will help motivate me. I did notice that this morning when we got up at 5:45 am to eat a bit before the fast and I took about half an hour to wipe the kitchen counters and table and straighten the living room. I did have the drive to continue on, and would have if it were not a fast day. So, that will be my next task.

20140311_163641We did go out on Tuesday night to get some more firewood in anticipation of the cold weather the next day. We did order a cord of firewood in late December, but with the extreme temperatures (my husband told me this morning that this has been the coldest winter since 1912!) we had only 4 logs left. We had a nice fire for a few hours yesterday.  I would have started one more fire today, but there was not enough to make it worthwhile.

In the meantime, I need to make supper now – have to feed some bellies! Wishing everyone a Freilichen Purim!

p.s. Just an update on our new bookshelves – it really has helped out a lot. Some days it gets messy, but it is really easy for boys to pick up the books and they are so enjoying all the beanbags we have in there as well!

Gut Moed!

20130922_222440Gut Moed everyone! It has been beautiful over here. The boys have all been able to sleep in the sukkah several nights now, and it looks like they will be able to continue to sleep in it through Yom Tov. Unfortunately, I have not been able to sleep in it for one reason: There is no bed or space for a bed for me! It would have been nice, the fresh air is always so refreshing to wake up too. Perhaps next year. Just one note of caution: Do NOT place a pillow anywhere near a heater that is turned on. You just might find the pillow slipped off the bed and is laying on top of the heater creating a fire. Not a good thing. Just saying. Baruch Hashem, the boy who found it turned the heater off and it just melted the pillow. Life lesson learned – keep heaters FAR away from anything in the sukkah. I told the boys this morning that Hashem was really kind to us for it was just a pillow that melted and had to be thrown out. He was giving us a second chance and we need to learn from it. I do not think we really need the heater at night anyways, not with all the sleeping bags and blankets they use.

The first days were wonderful. Busy, but wonderful. We had guests for many of the meals and went out for a couple. It was decided that instead of finishing up the second sefer of Rambam this weekend, they were going to skip to the sefer on Sukkos. It definitely has been a lot of fun learning about the halachos20130922_140417 of the holiday during the holiday. It was also exciting when we took our old lulav from last year we were able to open it up and understand what the Rambam was talking about. For those that have not looked, if you take a look at the lulav (palm branch), each part of the leaf is actually doubled over and is twice as wide as it looks. Quite interesting. Science learning as part of halacha. 🙂 They even learned that you can have a sukkah on a boat. So, we took them to a sukkah on a boat this year. With chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, building of cookie sukkahs and boys only (with Daddy) pool time, it was a good day and lots of fun.

We usually just do Judaics during Chol Hamoed (the middle days of Sukkos and Pesach/Passover), for it is really still like a Yom Tov, though the boys are sifting through their lego pile now to find all the pieces for Lego Club at Currclick.com. The Lego Club is a free monthly club that the boys can sign up for. They did it a few times at the end of the previous school year, but we have not done it in a few months. Not sure what we are going to do (if anything else) tomorrow, perhaps we will go apple picking. We’ll see.

20130922_141858In the meantime, one boy is making lunch, one boy is cleaning the living room, and one is cleaning the table. Then, I need to go grocery shopping and get a menu ready for the last days! I am going to miss all the Yomim Tovim. There are no more Yomim Tovim until Pesach (not including Chanukah and Purim, which are not real Yomim Tovim for they happened after the Torah). I once heard that all these Yomim Tovim now are supposed to give us the spiritual light to tie us through the dark of the winter months when we get re-jew-venated with Pesach and then Shavuos. I have to20130922_141709 remember to add pretzels and fruit rollups to make edible Torahs for Simchas Torah – both ingredients that I do not usually purchase, but I do occasionally make exceptions. 🙂

Wishing everyone a happy and energizing Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah!

Reflections

20130913_015121I was telling one of my boys, I forget which one, that Hashem is just so amazing. We have all year to do teshuva (repentence). When the month of Elul comes in we sound the shofar to awaken up our neshamas to do teshuva. Why? Because He knows we get busy and Life happens. Then comes Rosh Hashanah, the time that Hashem judges the entire world and decides what is in store for each of us for the coming year. But that is not all – He gives us 10 extra days! Why? Because He loves us and He created this world and knows that Life happens. On Rosh Hashanah He wrote in pencil. He is very patient and even after making His decision, He leans closer to us… and waits even longer. He yearns for us to reach up and do teshuva. When we do, on Yom Kippur our sins will be removed. So wonderful, but this is still not all! Our year is then inscribed in ink, but not just any ink, a very slow drying ink. So slow that it takes until after Sukkos to dry. Why? To give us yet another chance. Wet ink is a little bit harder to remove than pencil, but with a little bit more effort, it can be sopped up. We must be loved.

This past week has been really trying. As I mentioned, the first day of school was all but a mess. Tuesday did not fair much better. I was all ready to start the day when I remembered we had some change of plans – from going to a bris to taking a few minutes break at home before heading to a levaya (funeral). Needless to say, I did not really feel like teaching for a while afterwards. The last two days have been not too bad, though remember that I said I planned on taking the day before school to make sure I had all the books ready for the boys instead of going popcorn selling? Well, I probably should have not gone popcorn selling for I did miss several things that needed printing off!

The plus side to things is that because all the craziness of the week is now behind me, on the night before Yom Kippur I *finally* have time to recap (and drink water!) I have tried to sit down and do this before, I really have, but I would find myself sitting and trying and just getting too antsy to sit still any longer. Now, I have time. I have found that the past day or so I have been asking myself, “Am I being the best mother? Am I being the best teacher? When a beautiful boy is being who he is supposed to be and not listening, am I listening to what he is really trying to say, but can’t?”

A few weeks ago, I went for a short walk with my 4 year old. He wanted to ride bikes, but I was not wearing a skirt for biking and I just wanted to walk with him. He finally agreed as long as he could take his pen and paper for he wanted to make a map of our trip. No problem. It took me three houses before I realized that making a map meant that we would have to stop at each and every house so that he could plot our route. I really just wanted to walk. I  was 20130913_005156 (1)good though and very calmly tried to convince him that we needed to walk a certain distance before writing more down. When we reached the destination I gave him a few moments to draw his route. Did I mention, he loves to write his name and can write all the other family members’ names (or initials)? Being a lefty, he also tends to write right to left. I stood and watched him, really trying hard to not seem too ready to move on. He started writing and I looked from above. I watched as he wrote, “Mom <3 Matti” And then it was one of those moments. You know, the one that makes you feel like you were hit pretty hard. “Oh, you wrote that Mommy loves Matti?” “Yes!” “You are right, Mommy does love Matti.” (*tears in eyes*) [Just look for the biggest heart in the picture!] Somehow I was just not as anxious to walk for the exercise anymore. I don’t remember if we stopped at all on the way back home, but I enjoyed every second of it with him.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are not just about all the not so good things we have done, it is also about being a better Me. If I look back over the years, I do see improvement, maybe not as much as I would like, but it is there. I have to be happy about that. Change is not easy, but it is doable. I am hoping the tiny successes will inspire me to keep moving along the lines that I need to go in. I am not going to worry that the first week of school is one that I do not want to repeat, and so glad I can’t. The Days of Awe are still here, even if it is just for a short time more, I still have time to set a plan for the year. If I change myself, the boys change as well for they will mirror me. Children are funny that way. I have a feeling this year is going to be a good one. I not only love what I do, I feel very blessed to be able to do it. No, I’m not the best Me, but I am confident that I will be a better mother and a better teacher. It helps that I think I now have everything printed off for school. 🙂

In the meantime, I continue to count my blessings, and I thought most of you might would either be able to relate to the following mother or find another good reason why you homeschool (or both!)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/claire-wapole/thirty-minutes-tops_b_3861853.html

Wishing you all a Gemar Chasima Tova, an easy and meaningful fast and a most amazing (homeschooling) year! Oh, and popcorn pickup is tomorrow afternoon, my garage will be full!

Post Pesach

20130325_163908Pesach has come and gone, I hope everyone had a good holiday. I really like all the Yomim Tovim and miss them when they go. I know I’m weird for most people are excited and can’t wait until the holidays are over, but I just love them. I love the cooking (and I do simple things and don’t drive myself crazy,) love spending time with the boys (still!) and of course my husband, and just love the Yom Tov feel. I honestly do not mind being with my children, even the day after. I wonder if it is because I am with them all day almost 365 days a year and they really are my life, for now. Some how I think holidays are more of a break than a burden for even though they are still with me, I have one less job to do during the day so it is like a vacation. 🙂

I try to do at least one nice, fun thing during Chol Hamoed. We do not go all out and crazy and feel like we have to fill up all the spare time, I guess it is partly because I spend a lot of quality time with the boys all year long, and partly because I don’t like to feel crazy. I like the lazy, nice, fun, relaxing vacation. We drove to Niagra Falls to meet up with my brother and his family who came in to Toronto to his wife’s family from all the way across the continent. Unfortunately it was for only an hour because I misunderstood our meeting area and went 20 minutes the opposite direction and then had to backtrack. 🙁 But, I will take that hour opposed to nothing! We had not seen them since last Pesach. We also went to the Children’s Museum on Friday afternoon before my pass expired. It was a fun time, I was able to send the older boys off to do whatever they wanted while I took the little one around for the stuff he wanted.

While other mothers were frustrated from sugar highs and otherwise seemingly cooped up children (and parents) the day after, I used20130329_134501 this time to put the boys to work. They worked on finishing up the packing that I did not get to finish at night and taking everything down to the basement (which really was not that much work, but I was glad I did not have to do it!) I even got my floors mopped for me which saved me from having to purchase a new mop head for one more week. We did daven and do a small bit of Torah learning but really did take the rest of the day off. It was really nice.

So today was the first day back at school. We even started on time! Davening, parsha and then the rest of our scheduled day. Since we have a schedule set out for when everything is done during the week, and this is the only day of real “school” for the week, I just let the boys pick out whatever they wanted to work on for the most part. It is a nice treat for them. There was still some left over sugar/Yom Tovness left inside of their beautiful bodies and some of the concentration was just not there, and yes, some tantruming was still present, but by the end of the night things have settled down and one boy is enjoying himself as I type and is on a night hike with his scout troop. I assume they have enjoyed their smores by now, and are about ready to walk back to the cars. Today was a nice change to the snow and nice cold we got on the last day of Yom Tov! It was in the 50’s and sunny, a great time for a hike! Spring has definitely come now.

My 3 year old did not want to sing any songs before or during Pesach, but now that it is after the holiday he has started singing his “Ma Nishtanah” for all of us to hear. That is so like him! He asked me yesterday when Pesach is coming again. I think he’s getting ready for next year quite on the early side! Now, it is time to make some shlissel challah (a “key” challah) for the segula of parnassa (money) which is customary to do the first Shabbos after Pesach. Usually this is the time where my school schedule starts to dwindle away somehow and I have all sorts of new ideas to try out for the coming year, but I think since Pesach was so early this year, I am still in the current school mode and am confident that next week will be a great start to the rest of the year.

Pesach with Snow!

matti_pesachGreat news! Daddy has started driving himself to work again this week! After 15 weeks things are definitely improving. Last week he got rid of the crutches as well as the boot. It will still be some time before he is back to “normal” for even though the bone is healed up the muscles in the leg had not been used in 3 months and not only does he have to strengthen the muscles, he has to make sure not to fall or twist his ankle in the process. He is getting there! I will miss those few minutes twice a day when it was just the two of us, but I am glad that I will have those few extra minutes with the boys again in the mornings. For some unknown reason no breakfast jobs get done if I am out of the house. Can’t quite figure that one out, but with me being home at the time breakfast jobs need to be done, they are more likely to get done. 😉

Pesach is definitely around the corner and it has been cold and snowing outside today. We are almost finished the inside of the house, but the car, I am not quite sure when we are going to do it for it’s been cold last week and it will be cold for the rest of this week! However, as I like to say, it will somehow get done. Other than the kitchen, I have just the boy’s room to do plus 5-10 minutes of work in a few of the other rooms. The progress has been decent considering that we have not done most of our secular work in almost a week, but I do not let that bother me for this is part of our real life learning which is important as well. I have to keep reminding myself that yes, the actual “textbook” (so to speak) learning is very important and is most of we have to do, however, never forget the importance of knowing how to live. It is hard for that is something they do not really do in a school so one can feel guilty about doing it at home. Yes, they might study about it, but they do not “learn” about it in school. The learning comes from the actual doing. When my boys move out they will need to know how to clean for Pesach and how important it is. Nothing beats seeing Mommy clean and them physically having a hand in the cleaning. This is all part of the learning process and when they physically do something it gets ingrained into their beautiful minds better.

I actually have quite a few different things I was going to talk about but I think I will save some of them for a different time. This past week or so has been one of those teary eyed times in teaching and parenting – you know, those moments you want to frame and save. Those moments in which you see your child has grown – at least for a few seconds here and there.

I realize that if I want to engage my children into learning things like good habits or the love of mitzvos with little or no struggle, the solution is for them to see me do it. For example, if I would like them to give tzedakah, I give each of us a coin and we all pass around the tzedakah box. Our cleaning was not going so hot to begin with so, instead of giving each boy some chore somewhere in the house to do (while I clean somewhere else,) I decided we were all going to clean in the same room.

The room we all tackled first was the basement. It was not that bad to begin with but it did need to be cleaned. We got a lot done with the cleaning when I realized it was class time with their Rebbe (I have made sure they still attended their kodesh classes.) “Boys, class!” There are still times when I don’t know whose class it is, but the boys know and that generic call will get the proper boy to the proper class. They always do enjoy going to class, however this time the reaction was extreme. Boom boom boom boom boom boom across the floor. “MY CLASS!” “MINE TOO!” Were they excited about class or wanting to get out of cleaning? I cannot tell you for sure. 😉 I do know that the excitement they showed did put a smile on my face no matter what the cause. True they were not running to learn with me, but they were running to learn Torah and no matter what the reason for the added excitement for that day it will always put a smile on a parent’s face to see that kind of desire to learn Torah.

There was another one of those moments this week. It was today. Rabbi Resnick posts texts and pages in the classroom so that everyone can read along with him and no one needs to purchase or print off anything extra if they do not want to or cannot do. Today I was sitting across the room and watched as one boy got up to get the physical gemora so he could read along with him from the source, all on his own accord. This is not the first time he has done this. He will go get books for class on a regular basis. What was so special about today? I am not sure. I might have been more in the mood for teary eyed situations to begin with but for some reason it just dawned on me what this really meant. All parents worry about their child(ren) and all parents wonder if they are doing the right things for their child(ren). This particular boy and his parents are no exception. “Are we teaching them the right way? Are they going to stay along the path of Hashem?” This one little act of getting a sefer on his own accord to learn from is not going to guarantee anything, it does however tell me that perhaps we are on the right track, and with our continued prayers to the Almighty and our continued guidance, he is headed along the right path and will IY”H stay there.

As I drift into Lala Land and try to picture that Spring really is here while it is below freezing and snowing, and dream about the food I need to buy and make sure I have all the frogs and hail and wild animals ready for next week, I just have to smile at a conversation I had with a boy today. “Um, (beautiful boy), what is on your neck?” “Red marker. I put it on and wiped it off so it will look all red.” And he smiles as he points to his arm as well. (His wiping it off smudged it all over so it was an even red tinge.) You see, he wanted to have a red neck… Redneck… Yup, that is my boy. He is a real keeper.

Wishing you all a Happy and Kosher Pesach!

The Good in Everything

Happy Birthday to my 12 year old! His Hebrew birthday was the past Shabbos and his English birthday is this Friday. Only 1 more year to go. The nachas from his troope practicing and his parsha singing has begun!

I apologize I did not get a post out last week. I was thinking about it, however, I spent my time finishing up my latest book (the fact that there was a sale on books last week helped with that!) This book is a Jewish Homeschool book. I write in hopes to help others. Homeschooling can be wonderful but very difficult at times. Often times we do not have any way to gauge our success or failures. Many times things seem to go wrong and we feel like a failure. This book is an accumulation of my blog postings. It also includes postings that are not posted as well as templates that can be useful to homeschoolers.  We have our ups and we have our downs, just like every other family. (The book can be purchased through Lulu.com.  I am working on getting it distributed through Amazon.com as well as in an ebook format.)

Aside for that little bit of excitement for me, I was trying to think of what I was going to write about this week. Since Chanukah is just around the corner, I had been coming up with almost free activites that the boys can do. I was racking my brain for a nice menorah for my 3 year old to make when he pulled out (on his own, without me mentioning it) his menorah from last year! He was so excited! It is a real menorah that is almost as tall as he is. I was excited as well for I had totally forgotten about it and never thought that at that age (last year he was 2,) he would have remembered it even if I had showed it to him. Well, that was one thing I did not have to worry about and it actually lifted a nice pressure off my shoulders. It is made of a nice piece of wood, decorated with paint, small wooden chips and tea lights.

I thought perhaps I could get off a little easy by telling the boys they were going to perform the story of Chanukah – complete with actors and costumes and props. They were excited and even started the process. I then figured the little one would really benefit greatly from arts and crafts, as well as the older ones enjoying themselves, so I had been looking at some fairly easy, almost free yet nice crafts. Chanukah is one of the holidays in which there is no shortage of suggestions. I did come across 2 sites that met my fancy a bit this year:

http://www.amotherinisrael.com/easy-inspiring-chanukah-craft-ideas/

http://www.tipjunkie.com/holiday-crafts/hanukkah-kids-crafts/

Aside from that, we have entered the last POPCORN phase. Yes, we are not done! (See why it is a nightmare for parents?! However, we like to think of it as summer camp for yummy boys, for they earn money in their scout accounts that can be used towards scout camp tuition.) We are trying to deliver all the tins and boxes – it is hard when you have only 30 minutes of daylight to do it each day. It is slow, but we are making progress. For those that we owe popcorn too, please don’t fret, we will try to get them to you within the next week. Please forgive us. We were on a roll this week when Someone thought our life was too dull. As we were on the way to the JCC to meet up with customers who bought, I got a call from DH. I needed to come to his work ASAP, and no excuses. He was in an accident. It was in the parking lot at work. So, I handed boys the phone and they called their customers and rescheduled meeting times while I changed the direction of the car.

Turns out he slipped on the little water that was left from the rain the day before (it was 50 degrees out, no ice.) It was a pretty bad accident, and we brought him to the hospital. To make a long story short, Daddy’s ankle is broken in 2 places and he needed surgery. Well, so much for some fun Chanuakah projects! From driving back and forth from the hospital to home (Baruch Hashem only 8-10 minutes away,) it was so much for pretty much everything.

We did have one of those homeschooling moments in the car on the way to visit Daddy. We had all been talking about retirement accounts and emergency funds this past week.  It is so very important to start contributing to one’s retirement account as soon as one starts working – not 1 or 2 years later.  It is also very important to save a portion of each paycheck to put into an emergency fund.  Even though they are pretty smart many things just do not internalize just by talking.

I do not remember how the conversation started, it could be that I specifically started it, I just do not remember, but I felt I could internalize this lesson. The boys have been asking for various things, and unfortunately we have had to tell them there is no money. We have a budget and we stick to it. It is very important to keep out of debt. I told the boys that it costs money to go back and forth to the hospital, it costs money to pay for the parking (even though it was VERY reasonable,) it costs money to buy the extra food and other extras we need at the moment. How are we paying for it? With our emergency fund! Baruch Hashem our cost for this emergency will not be that much extra, and when we are past it, we will shore up the emergency fund again. Even while sitting in the front, I could see some gears start to turn.

I had this grand idea that since we homeschool, our school travels with us, even when visiting Daddy in the hospital. We grabbed our supplies and books, as well as some lunch and off we were! I was very proud of myself. Unforunately, the hospital’s internet is too slow to access Room613, so that was not a go. Each boy did get 1 lesson done, so it was not a complete failure.

The boys were wonderful. They behaved themselves, were quiet, only kibitzed one time (and it was a small kibitz!) but 4 boys walking around a small hospital room while Daddy’s foot not only hurt a lot, he had a migraine despite 3 various medicines that he was given, was not really good combination. They did, however, manage to learn 2 sets of mishnayos lessons with Daddy before I took them back home. The house remained fairly intact and even though I gave them a little bit of mussar, I was very impressed with how well they kept it. I have not heard too many complaints from any of them and so I’m contemplating purchasing each of them a book as a thank you present. I am itching to buy them each a book again, books are great presents and they get read and re-read and re-read, and re-read again.  And, they are presents for not just one boy, but each boy, in his turn, can grow into it and read it. However, since money is tight, I have not been able to do it. This is accident is just the excuse I need to be able to purchase the books.  It would have to come out of our emergency money fund and I definitely would not purchase books right now if it were not for the emergency!  I think Daddy will have to agree to it. 🙂

This accident is also a great time to show Hashem’s great kindness and love. I tell the boys that everything Hashem does is good and is for the best. It is hard to see that when something “bad” happens. Over the last few days, DH and I have come up with so many brachos and good things. Baruch Hashem it happened in the parking lot at work and not while driving on the road. Baruch Hashem it was only as bad as it was, it could have been much, much worse. There was talk that Daddy was going to have to go overseas for work for up to 3 weeks. The doctor said it could be up to the end of the month before he will go back to work! Now, Daddy is not only home for a much needed rest from all the work he has been doing, he will be home for Chanukah for sure (and the boys are SOOOO excited about that!) He can even spend more time learning. Yes, it will be a long recovery, however, the surgery went better than planned and he is doing very well. There is good in everything, if we only look.

Wishing everyone a Freilichen Chanukah! May the light of the menorah shine light into your world as well!

Isrug Chag – The Day After and Our New Elective

I hope everyone had a wonderful Yom Tov.   We ended our Chol Hamoed with a mini birthday party for the now 9 year old (at a friend’s house!) and the two Big Boys had fun contacting more people on the radio together.  It was actually a very busy day on the radio and they just flipped from one frequency to another to another making contacts!

The last Yom Tov day was the busiest I think of them all.  I got the little one all pumped up on Sunday for dancing with the Torahs that after our “lesson,” he went around and collected most of our stuffed Torah collection.  I did not realize we had so many, Baruch Hashem, and I do believe he missed quite a few.  I am not sure where they all came from, for I only remember buying 4!  He came up to me and announced that he was going to take ALL the Torahs to shul to dance with.  I had to burst his bubble and tell him only 1.  He was amazingly okay with that.  And yes, he was sure to take the Torah of his choice (the BIGGEST one of course, and oh, it was red, just in case you were wondering,) both during the night and then again in the day.  Everyone had fun, we did not get home until 4pm!  I even let them bring over a friend after shul.

After all the treats, excitement and lack of sleep for boys, I have decided to put them to work immediately with school work.  We did not quite get a complete day in, but it was off to a good start and I think tomorrow will be even better.  We did, however, start a new course.  They will get the benefit of the great outdoors, exercise, comradeship and home caring all rolled into one.  In school, there are the required themes they have to cover, and then there are the electives that the teachers get to choose from to fill up the extra time.  My boys also have electives.

They have started the elective course on Foliage Raking. This is going to be an ongoing course, probably done several times a week for the next two months.  After that, I think there will be a course on Crystalline Ice Water.  This course will involve the gathering of the crystalline ice water with the use of hands, shovels and even the tongue.  We will also experiment with various uses of the crystalline ice water such as fort building and fort defending.  Perhaps even the use of it for house construction. This course will last at least 4 months and classes will be held several times a week at least, if not more.  Bet you cannot find these electives in a school!  To view some more great homeschool elective ideas, watch this video.

Aside from our new elective, we also had a huge case of Post Wonderful Yom Tov’d Ness.  In other words, children who have been on totally different cycles in eating, playing, and sleeping, and it finally caught up with them.  I knew that at least one boy was going to have a difficult day.  He crashed for a nap for several hours on Monday afternoon.  It did not help that he forced himself awake last night, after Yom Tov, to read in his room until after midnight. I knew last night I was going to have my day set out for me today, and that I was going to have to wake him up early to start him on a normal routine as quickly as possible.  If he was up early, he would actually sleep tonight and hopefully be almost his normal self for tomorrow.  Yes, it was a difficult day for him.  Everything set him off.  Unfortunately, I did quite a bit of practicing of my voice raising on him today.  Would have preferred voice training oppose to voice raising, but perhaps next time.

There is always good that comes out of everything.  His off attitude was just a heightened manifestation of where his attitude has been going over the last month.  Both Daddy and I have tried to check it and get it under control, but to no avail.  Today, after the voice raising, and his being upset at what he considered his harsh Mother, I stopped and had a little talk with him.  I have to admit, it is hard being a child, especially when you perceive yourself a lot more mature than your younger brothers.  One brother can get annoying and you just want him off your back.  You’re exhausted because you are reading a breathtaking book way too late and nothing seems to go your way.  Mommy seems to boss you around, and your brothers seem to always get away with things (in your eyes.)  *Sigh*  Yes, it is hard being the oldest.

I would like to think that my advice to him helped, just a little, for it did calm down a bit the rest of the afternoon and evening.  They all were warned they were going to bed early…. Well, I tried, however, they were all in bed at the regular bedtime, and yes, IN BED.  Now, I did not say asleep, and I did not say they stayed in bed.  Did have the little one come out because he was thirsty…. took several long gulps on multiple occasions before he finally went to bed and stayed there.  It really did not take that long for them to go to sleep.  I insisted that everyone was to be in their own bed.

Several loads of laundry have been done today (thanks in part to chores a poor boy racked up with his tantrums… I did fold all of the clothes for him,) the kitchen has been mostly cleaned up from some busy boys today by those busy boys (amazingly!) and now I’ll finish the kitchen, put another load of laundry on and do some exercising.  I think there might be some leftover time to veg and perhaps do some reading before my wonderful husband comes home from learning.

Wishing you all an easy transition back to your non-Yom Tov schedule!

Gut Moed!

***Please have Raphael Gavriel Simcha Chaim ben Shulamis in your prayers – (Note name addition, things are very serious. )he is a young man (early 20’s) who has a brain tumor.  It was mostly removed several months ago, but it has grown back.  He has remained in the hospital.***

We’re half way done the first half of the last set of Yomim Tovim, in other words – the middle of Sukkos. 🙂  The weather is beautiful, with just one meal being rained out on us.  It is definitely getting cooler, but still warm and I still do not need to wear a jacket – and that is coming from someone who wears jackets because she gets cold easily.  Yesterday I went for a bike ride, and I got in not just one, but two nice bike rides today.  I really enjoy looking at all the wonderful colors.

The little one has his own lulav and esrog and is very proud of it.  I even found last year’s lulav holder for him as well as a nice box to put the esrog.  When we got to shul, he was very excited to show it to his friend and share it with her.  The second day I made a point to get to shul earlier than we usually go so that he could make it for Hallel where they walk around the bima with their lulavim and esrogim.  We got there on the last circuit, just enough for a 3 year old to have fun and not get bored. 🙂

Yesterday started off nice with a bris (Yom Kippur baby!), buying a very excited 3 year old new Shabbos shoes for his got ruined and then a wonderful Room613 Virutual Sukkos party.  For those who are not sure what a virtual party can include, there were stories, songs, fun Sukkos riddles and a talent show.  Yes, a talent show!  There was a comedian telling riddles and jokes, bike tricks, karate tricks and a wonderful pianist.  Modern technology is amazing, with a laptop and a video camera, we were able to walk outside one of the homes of the boys and watch him ride his bike outside and do some tricks.  It was not perfect, the video cameras have a bit more to be desired sometimes for they did occasionally freeze up for the audience.  Aside from that, it was a lot of fun.  I have to put a nice plug in for homeschooling – it’s hard to watch bike riding tricks in a school, but it was so easy to do in a homeschool setting!

I had wanted to do some learning about the rest of the holidays.  I figured I have three days before Shabbos, and perhaps something (most likely  not) on Sunday before Yom Tov.  That was my plan.  As I mentioned in the last post, I love all the Yomim Tovim, however, it is hard to find all the time I would like to take to teach about every Yom Tov – before the Yom Tov.  We only had a couple of days after Yom Kippur before Sukkos, and so I figured it would be great to learn the rest during Chol Hamoed figuring it was a great way to increase Torah learning a little bit and not have a free for all holiday.  So I planned.

After the bris yesterday, I had one boy make a spontaneous play date (which turned into a sleep over) and another boy had the brother over to our house for his spontaneous play date.  Boy number 3 was happy as a clam to turn the radio on and call “CQ” in hopes to reach people in other parts of the world, which he did. (Amateur Radio aka Ham Radio.)  He also spent some time learning so he can upgrade his radio license from Technician to General so he can use more frequency bands.

After lunch today I had three boys come to the house (one was mine and the other two were the brothers from the spontaneous play dates).  One brother stayed to play with one of my boys and the other brother went with one of my other boys to yet another house for several hours!  My oldest, was still happy as a clam learning outside in the sukkah for his general class and talking to people on the radio. I do not really mind.  It is hard to play with friends who are at school during the day (imagine that!)  We also had a wonderful sukkah party for the Cub and Boy Scouts in our sukkah and a Mazal Tov to my oldest for earning his Second Class rank for Boy Scouts tonight! 😀

We did not get to sleep in the sukkah the first few nights for it did rain and drizzle on and off, however, last night and tonight the boys took advantage of the wonderful weather.  Unfortunately Mommy and Daddy are not out there for Daddy is a bit sick and does not want to get sicker.  I really enjoy the fresh air – it is not too hot nor too cold, just nice and cool and fresh and I wake up really refreshed in the morning when I do get to sleep outside.

I still have my plans… Baruch Hashem we still have tomorrow!  I am determined to get some learning done (will have to say no to play dates….. 🙁  )

It is late, and I’m off to finish making challah, so hope everyone has a wonderful Moed, Shabbos and Yom Tov!