The Rest of the Year

library_beforeMy 4 year old, while we are in the car: “Mommy, I want the Bais Hamikdash song!”

I had absolutely no clue what song he was talking about, but he asked me several times while we were driving. I was going through my brain, trying to figure the song out. My oldest bought a few CD’s recently with his Bar Mitzvah money. It was not the Maccabeats, no, we have had those CD’s for a long time. I had Six13 playing and I quickly flipped through the songs for him. No. Well, perhaps it is Lipa. A brother helped me put Lipa in while I drove and we flipped through those songs. No, the only song he knew from that CD was “Hang Up the Phone.” No. No clue. Poor boy was so distraught. He wanted his Bais Hamkidash song! We had to wait and I asked my oldest if he knew what his little brother was talking about the next time we got into the car. It turns out that it was Cantor Helfgot and Itzchak Perlman! I was driving and the little boy was in the back seat, but the squeals of delight as he heard the violin start playing his song was wonderful. Beautiful song and it lasts 9 minutes and 58 seconds, and my youngest was singing along the entire time.

It’s been hard to get back into the swing of things after our winter vacation. It took a few weeks, but I finally sat down and redid our schedule. I was so20140211_122606 proud of myself and I printed it out (took 8 pages), taped it together and attached it to our kitchen wall. As I was in the middle of taping, I noticed… a mistake. Oops. Oh well, it is hard to find all the mistakes until it is in print. We have made (well, really in the middle of the process of making) major and minor changes.

We had some things that had been working for us until recently, and with growing boys, we have made some executive decisions. Firstly, some of the minor changes I made. We have the older boys going through Rambam while watching videos with Rabbi Yehoshua Gordon on Chabad.org. While trying to be efficient with time, okay, it was mostly out of convenience, but don’t tell anyone, I would have all three boys watch the videos together. As long as I was in the room with them, that was fine. However, it is hard to stay in the room when another little boy “needs” ¬†to learn his school work. One might think that this is not an issue, until one realizes that once the parent leaves the room, the other boys tend to think that they can be boys.

20140211_122621So, we are working on getting their tablets all set up so that they can all listen to their Rambam videos separately, and wearing headphones (so they can be with me in the same room and I spend some time with my Bais Hamikdash boy) – which leads us to our major change. In order for them to be allowed to use their tablets, we have to make sure that when we sit them down with the tablets, they are likely to actually watch and listen, opposed to finding other things to do instead and I am not noticing. You know, like checking their email, etc. At first we were thinking that we would remove internet access to the tablets, which meant to remove the actual ability of the tablet to find any internet to try to connect to. To do that, you have to hack the tablet and start messing with the actual programming of it. Well, we got all the way to the last step and we “bricked” the tablet – meaning it won’t even turn on to use. Oops. We had to get another tablet. (We got the lower end tablets, and with a higher end tablet we would most likely would have been able to fix it by re-installing the whole system, similar to when one has to wipe out their Windows computer and re-install the Windows system.)

While waiting to decide what we are going to do now, I made the decision that the desktop computer was getting abused and I finally went and removed internet access to that computer – by pulling the plug to their internet router. We have two routers; one with a password, and one that was supposed to be filtered and with no password. (The filter, for some reason, stopped working.) Once the router that did not require a password was unplugged, there can be no access through tablets. That means we can upload videos through a thumb drive and do not have to worry about boys playing around so much (and don’t have to worry about screwing up another tablet!) Yes, we did get drop and spills protection, but that does not include when we root the tablet and mess up the programming end.

It’s been too cold to go out some days. Boys are kvetchy. Tried bribing them in getting work done fast so we can put up bookcases (a wonderful homeschool treat!!!!) Didn’t work. Bookcases came, school work was not done, and couldn’t get them to finish the work so we can put up the bookcases. A few days later and we finally finished screwing in all the screws to the 3rd and final Bais Hamikdash, oops, bookcase. ūüėČ We are still working on arranging all the books. With 3 new bookcases, you would think there would be some empty shelves. Right now I have 2 that are empty…for now, however, we are not done.

We have rearranged some furniture from our library (where the bookcases are) to the living room. We rather like it and think of keeping it, at least for now, this way. My chair is sitting right next to the bookcase on the hearth (and it’s within reach of my arms!)¬†and instead of having my papers pile up all over the place, I am removing the books from one of the shelves and replace them with a few containers where I can store the papers and whatnot that I use throughout the day. I am hoping that it will make the fireplace area look a lot neater.

Almost Ready

mishneh torahI have not been able to write for a while for we have one computer in the repair shop, one with a broken screen, and the other is being used quite heavily by a boy who has been doing school work now for about 4 weeks, even though school has not officially started yet.

I firstly want to wish my boys (including Daddy) a hearty Mazal Tov on completing the first sefer in Rambam’s Mishne Torah – Sefer Madda (4 books including the introduction)! For a very special treat, for their siyum, we took them 3 hours to Toronto to eat in a kosher restaurant, daven in shul and drive 3 hours back. Our pocket book is $200 lighter, but it was definitely worth it! For the past month (almost to the day,) the boys have all been doing 2 chapters of Mishne Torah every day, except Shabbos where they usually do just one, but that might be able to change once the days get a little shorter on Shabbos day. They enjoy listening to (and watching) Rabbi Gordon from Chabad.org. He explains everything very nicely and tells lots of jokes to keep everyone’s interest.¬† We had originally planned on doing 3 chapters a day during the school year, but, that is not going to work out. Two boys would have time in the their schedule for a third, but my oldest is now in the next level of Ambleside Online – the House of Education (HOE, years 7-12) and his course load has doubled I think from the previous years! So, two it is. Two chapters of Rambam and 2 mishnayos from the Mishna Yomit program, along with davening and parsha, and that is about all there is room for right now.

The last few weeks I have been feeling not in the mood to do anything. Normally, my summers are filled with stuff in the morning with the boys and then I send them out to play by themselves (or in the basement) or to read. I would have the time to do things like cleaning, purging the cellar, getting ready for nextsiyum - yoshee year and just doing absoluely nothing. This summer has been so different. Yes, the three older boys went to camp for a week, but that left me to clean up the house for Grandpa, and at the same be the sole playmate for the youngest. After camp we had our boys start their Rambam, twice a day, as well as mishnayos with the oldest doing other work such as laining, math, SAT vocabulary and SAT math. You would think I would have some time to myself still, but I was the playmate during Rambam and mishnayos.

I found myself trying to hide away at every opportunity but never really getting the break I was feeling I needed for I still had to be on top of the oldest boy doing all his school work. If I go and hide, there was bickering to remind me of my real job. I am not sure why I could not get some boys to go out more, perhaps it was just that their learnings were staggered just so that it was breaking up the day in not so good of a way and I just never had the time to sit and think about how to make it better, I was just running around like a headless chicken. Despite that, I finally managed to put together a schedule for four boys next year. It was not the easiest thing to do! I think I have just about all the work printed out to start school. I just have to print of maps of various times for their weekly map work.

siyum - yonatanHowever, a few days ago I found myself bored, actually bored. Yes, there was cleaning and laundry to do, but that was all. I already had cleaned one bathroom and did some laundry. So, I took advantage of the fact that I was not really needed and I went outside for a walk to enjoy the warm, sunny weather. It is good to occasionally be bored; it gives me the drive to do something afterwards!

I have been asked by several people how things are going with my right-brained child. Well, honestly, I have not done anything with him. I have looked at a few things and I think I will be doing Brain Gym type of stuff – mainly exercises that involve alternating right over left, for example, using the right elbow to touch the left knee. Figure 8’s in the air/traced on paper are also great. I think the idea is for me to come up with about 8-10 exercises that I can alternate to make the 5 minute time exciting. But, one thing at a time. I have the schedule done and books in order. Clean up of the house will hopefully happen a bit this weekend while boys are out, for they will be busy selling… P-O-P-C-O-R-N!!!!! Yes, it is that time again! Wow, life is just never dull, Baruch Hashem. May we go from strength to strength. My Cub Scout wanna-be has his popcorn selling shpeel down pat!

As I finish up and hope my boys will be done their Rosh Hashanah sheets before the holiday starts, I sincerely wish everyone a most wonderful Shanah Tovah. May you all be inscribed in the Books of Life, Health, Happiness and Success.matti - science museum

Kesiva v’Chasima Tovah!

My Vacation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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