Learning to Grow and Change

#3 multitasking for his Cooking Merit Badge.

It has been quite a busy several months. Can’t say there has been too much homeschooling wise to talk about, which is one of the reasons why I have not written for so many long months. However, that means there are lots of pictures I can post. 😀

With Rosh Hashanah, Sukkos, our latest bar mitzvah, the week later my nephew’s bar mitzvah, a few weeks later our yearly Thanksgiving trip, the boys’ camping trip to Big Bend, Chanukah… When did we have time for school? Or, as I am typing, I am thinking that perhaps I can rephrase that: That WAS our schooling, so perhaps there really is something to write about.

I do have stuff to write about, and all those amazing trips really are one of the wonderful

Happy 16th Birthday Mr. Big!

reasons why I love homeschooling for I don’t have to answer to anyone and we really can and do make our lives as much learning as we can. However, that is not the main reason for writing. We will get that those, but there are other things.

Life changes, and we have to learn to adjust to the changes. The past two years have been very challenging for us. Our move down south was definitely not what we had in mind and that is the hard part. I am slowly, very slowly, starting to realize that what I have in mind is irrelevant. I used to think that I was very flexible. If my husband wanted a break and asked me if I wanted to go out with the family for a night to a hotel, I used to be able to pack and be ready in 45 minutes for a wonderful adventure. I am learning though, that yes, I am flexible in some areas, but in others I am not. That is the challenge.

We started the school year with one less boy at home. One boy, who actually hates change, needed so badly to have a change and go off to Yeshiva. Normally I do not believe that children should go away from home for school, however,  I understand that there are exceptions. Our one child is an exception. It took me a long time to get there. I felt I was not trying hard enough, and with a little bit more work, a little bit more proper advice, I could make things work. Yes, I did get some help, and yes, the help really worked, however, it still took me many months to realize that no, I was not a terrible mother, not a terrible teacher, it is just my child is ready for something else. I am happy to report that our child is doing well. He is happy and he is learning. What more can I ask for? He still has a ways to go, but one step at a time and with G-d’s help, he will get there.

I started the year very quiet. The whole house dynamics was so different. It was a good

Saba and Mr. Little.

thing. The other boys started opening up. I now had the ability to see what else was needed in the house. Mr. Little, who is not so little, got to have more of my attention. We are doing pretty much what we did last year – I have my Charlotte Mason for the secular and Melamed Academy for the Judaics. I have to say that the Melamed Academy has come a long way from last year. The older boys have a Rebbe for Gemara and Mishnayos and they have weekly live shiurim they attend. I have added  private tutoring with Rabbi Resnick from Room613.net. The boys have learned with Rabbi Resnick for several years, many years ago, and were really excited when I asked if they would like to have him for their Gemara now. With all that set up, school didn’t seem so bad – until you start adding in all the wonderful Yomim Tovim.

It is hard to keep up with school with all the holidays! But, I cannot complain. Amidst all the spiritual highs, Mr. Boy #3 became a Man. 🙂 Motzei Yom Kippur he had his birthday. Such

Bar Mitzvah Cousins!

a lucky boy he was this year. He was told to eat all day on Yom Kippur until the last 72 minutes and then he had to fast.  We teased him about that. We waited until a few weeks later, Parshas Beraishis, before celebrating for he cousin had his bar mitzvah the next week, Parshas Noach, and we wanted my parents to be able to easily attend both simchas. It definitely was a whirlwind of several weeks. Sukkos, Boy Scout campout again in our sukkah, two bar mitzvahs and lots of wonderful time with family. My parents were excited. I made Saba (Grandpa) learn Chumash with Mr. Little every day. It gave them something wonderful to do. Saba and Mr. Little have a special bond. They love to Skype with each other regularly and read stories to each other. My parents took my boys with them to my sister’s house, leaving my DH and I two days to ourselves!  Thanks to my parents and my sister for babysitting!

I have to say, Hashem heard my prayers and saw my tears this summer. He just decided that my time alone would be better off at a different time when I did not have to worry about making a school schedule. DH took ALL boys (well, all three) to Big Bend to camp for a

Big Bend National Park

week in December. That meant… you guessed it… I was home, All. By. Myself. Just me. 🙂 It gave me that so much needed break. I spent time on the computer the first day. I did not know what to do with myself. It did get cold here that morning, the cold front come through, though Big Bend was one of two spots in the country that was warm. On Monday, I tidied up some of the rooms and started on a deep clean of the coat closet. I had small goals, I knew better. I spent all day Tuesday cleaning the coat closet. I tossed as much as I could out – I still am working on minimalizing my house. It is a slow process. It felt so good to not feel rushed that someone is coming home, and I could just leave things if I was finished for the day and go to bed! Wednesday was my spiritual day. I did make sure I did some reading every day, but Wednesday was my big day. I decided that after the cleaning was done, this was my opportunity to reconnect. With being busy with beautiful boys, it is not usually easy for me to find time, so I made sure I made time. By the time everyone

Big Bend National Park

came home on Thursday, I was ready. I was calm, happy, and felt recharged. And I did not have to leave home, which was the best!

The big thing this year is that we finally got to see what each of the other boys were needing. Mr. Big was not doing well. Our city is big, and there are many religious family here, there are several areas in town. However, the big thing is that it is still a “young” community. There are so many children here. However, the kicker is that they stop at about 13 years of age. After that, there just are not very many kids. Our oldest is now 16 and we asked someone in the know and he could only come up with 3 boys that age. Two are out of town and the other is in a different area of town. There are basically no boys here for him. That is a big problem. That along with other things that have happened created a situation that needed our immediate attention.

This is where I got stuck. We knew what we needed to do though I had a hard time accepting things. I had my head stuck in one direction and could not shift into another

His First Day of Yeshiva!

gear. Our son needed to go to Yeshiva. He did not need to go away from home, but he needed friends. The Yeshiva here has mainly out of town boys with a few in town boys from the other side of town. It was a hard few months for me as I struggled with me and who I was. I was not a failure. From 4 down to 2. It was a hard thing to swallow. I had to swallow my ego and that was not easy. Afterall, I was “That Homeschool Mom,” for the good and not so good. I had to live up to that title, didn’t I?

No.

That is not who I am. I am a mother of 4 beautiful boys and wife to an amazing husband. As a Mother, all I want is the best for my children. If teaching them at home is the best for them, or, at least, the same as sending to them to school, and I want and can teach them, then I will. If there comes a time when something is better, then, as a Mother, I will do my best to make sure they get it. Up until now, homeschooling really was the best for them.

Chanukah with all my boys 😀

Now, after 16 years, my oldest is ready to move on. Baruch Hashem, he has a had a good first week of school and is finishing the week off with a Shabbaton. I would like to think that he appreciates at least some of what I taught him and gave him over the last 16 years,( though, that just might be my ego getting to me again. 😉 ) In many ways, he has a huge advantage over other boys, and he knows it, and in other ways he will catch up really fast. DH and I are very happy with how and what we taught them in their Judaics (as well as secular). They have learned stuff that most boys do not learn and it is stuff that puts them ahead in a big way. Mr. Big is good at perception and I do believe that he understands this. We listened to part of a shiur several weeks ago that stated that he believes that boys should be learning the material that we taught and why.

As we head on over to the second half of the school year, I am finally really excited. I have one boy who insists that he wants to remain learning at home (yeah! I can think that I

Freezing maple syrup on snow!

really am doing at least a little good,) and one boy whom I can give a lot more attention with his learning that he needs over the next few years. OH! And I can’t forget to mention that Mr. Boy #3 passed his Amateur Radio test! Another Kosher Ham in the house! 😀

Things are good. It just depends on if we can train our minds to understand that. Things are slowing down in some ways, which is helpful, so that I can focus my attention on things that need me. I am optimistic that the three of us who are home are going to have lots of fun. 🙂

 

Adjusting to New Situations

The next several postings will most likely be how we are coping with our new situation. With Daddy being home and in need of more TLC for the next month, things are not going to be quite the same. I am sure the next few postings will be more of a diary entry than it usually does because of it. However, since the goal of my writing is to help others, I think this is the best way.

Just to recap, on our way to deliver popcorn last week, we got a call from Daddy saying he was in an accident. He broke his ankle in two places and that dislocated his foot. He had to have surgery to correct this. The recovery involves being at home sitting with his leg raised at all times. It has now been 9 days since the accident and I can finally take a break to write a little bit.

Anyone who had to deal with a new baby or a sick or elderly relative, knows how life changes. IY”H, our new situation will be temporary, and w though we do like seeing Daddy, eating meals with him and talking to him throughout the day, life is a bit more challenging at the moment.

The first few days was were a constant drive between the hospital and home. Baruch Hashem the hospital is just a few minutes drive away. From talking to doctors, to checking on the boys to trying to help Daddy out with whatever minute thing he needed for he could not do much, those few days were quite busy with not much sleep on my part. The thing that I remember the most is how nice and small and how so friendly everyone was at the hospital.  From the nurses and doctors to the other hospital workers.  Always a friendly face to be found and always wanting to help. I do not know how many times I followed a doctor or nurse into a room and then when I needed to leave I had to ask how to get out (even though it was a small place!)

The hardest time of all were the first 30 or so hours Daddy came home. I do not remember too much of that time, it was all a blur.  All I remember was that Daddy was in a lot of pain from his leg to his headaches to his nausea from the medicine to the constant attending to his needs. Everyone pitched in and was there to help, even the little one!

School during that time? What was that? I managed to get most of their online schooling with their Rebbe plus one more subject (one more the entire week), but that was all. I decided that I was not even going to try. It was hard enough keeping 4 good boys in whispers for days while Daddy tried to feel a bit human. Any noise would hurt his head.

Food. Well, that first night, we had already eaten supper by the time we got the phone call.  I did a good job shopping two days before and supper was all planned out to be pea soup in the crock pot.  2 packages of split green peas, an onion (or pre-chopped dried onions from the spice rake!), pre-shredded carrots, 2 sliced celery sticks, chopped tofu slices/tofurky or other meat and water. Takes 5 minutes to make. Turn on high for 4-6 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low and you’re all set! Nutritious, delicious and everyone loves it! Note to self – don’t forget to keep yourself hydrated! It just makes life a bit easier that way.

We could have managed when Daddy came home, but it was nice to have someone drop some supper off. It was also nice that this dear friend put up with “do you know where we can borrow a wheelchair”, to bringing it over and “Oh! Insurance is dropping one off tonight,” to “do you still have it?” to “never mind, they finally dropped it off!” And to my dear sister who so kindly told me that I was not going to be able to do it all and to accept meals. But really, we could have managed, though yes, deep down inside I was very grateful for any meals that came our way. It just seemed to take that one burden off my shoulders while I was busy doing other needed things.

The first morning back home told me how busy and how low on sleep I was when I thought we woke up at 8:30, rested for a few minutes, got up to use the bathroom and then came out only to have 2 boys tell me it was 10 am! I just stood there in disbelief at the two boys looking at their watches and trying to soak in that I was jipped an hour! Ok, Boy 2 you have 30 seconds to get out of bed and get to your online class! You should have seen him move!  It usually takes 30 minutes to get him out of bed, no matter what time it is!

Oh my goodness, I cannot tell my boys enough – MAKE SURE YOU HAVE AN EMERGENCY FUND!!! Do NOT spend all your take home money, put in a small amount each month. There has been the extra gas money, the extra trips to the store. Walgreens was my home away from home for the first several days from getting everything from a new showerhead (that we do have to return, it broke while installing it…. no comment…) to a bag of ice to help for pain. Not to mention that we are unsure of when we will be getting a “pay check” for this is a Worker’s Comp. case and who knows when they will send Daddy’s check.  Baruch Hashem we will be able to pay our bills and feed our tummies until that happens.

Shabbos brought a much needed respit. Yes, Daddy was wheeled to shul by a wonderful boy. He was starting to feel a little better, but still needed lots of TLC. Nine days later and the boys are still wonderful mitzvah boys. The same enthusiasm they showed the first day in wanting to help Daddy is still there, Baruch Hashem!

Even though there was not much schooling done last week, the boys did manage to each put together a Dvar Torah. It is always nice when we can manage to have some resemblance of normalicy during difficult times. Yes, I made challah as usual on Thursday night, yes we did have our weekly cinnamon buns for Shabbos morning, and yes, there was a Dvar Torah from each boy on Friday night.

Monday morning was the beginning of a new school week. I was not sure how much we would get done, but we just needed to step in and try. I figured that there would be some subjects that got skipped due to having to help Daddy, but we would figure out how to deal with it. Amazingly, since Daddy was resting most of the school day, we got almost everything accomplished! Everything but math. Even today, only one boy got to math. Math is at the end of the day right now and I think that is why it seems to be skipped over, our help is needed. Not quite sure what to do about it. I have not turned the alarm on in the mornings and so I have not been getting up at 6:30 like we usually do for I do not wake up until about 8. The fact that I am not “forced” to get up then kinda makes me lazy about doing something I do not really care to do! I am hoping I will start waking up a bit earlier so that I can get myself ready earlier.  Perhaps we can start doing math at 8:30 before we are set to daven. We have 3 computers available and perhaps I can get everyone doing math at the same time. (Our math is from Khan Academy this year and the boys like it!)

Anyways, each day is a new day, with its own new challenges. I have been a mother, wife, friend, doctor, nurse, caregiver, chauffeur and a plumber these last 9 days.  Yes, a plumber.  We have 3 projects that need to get done and so far only had time for one. Why? Because instead of waiting up for Daddy until after midnight, we are actually going to bed at a reasonable time!  Not that I mind that much, but yes I am quite busy until the time the boys go to bed and do not get to extra stuff until night time.  Now, night time is spend in bed, like it should. (Though Daddy would argue that we are still going to bed too late! Can’t win them all.)

Two nice things that happened Monday night. I actually got to exercise for 15 minutes for the first time in the last week and a half. The second one is that Daddy got himself a present – a guitar! He has been wanting one for a while, and a month sitting down is the perfect excuse he needed to get one.

The boys missed all the Chanukah parties around town this year, and Daddy is really feeling bad about that.  However, tonight is the 5th night of Chanukah and has a special feeling about it, so tonight, (see here for more info) we are going to light our home and have a Chanukah party!  The boys do not know about it yet.  Nothing fancy, just some goodies, music, a game or two of dreidle and yes, I will get them a present.

Oh, and one more thing – I don’t have to match socks for 6 weeks! 🙂 There is good in everything. 😉

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!