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. 🙂

 

My Week of the Year

KIMG0585Most years I get a few days after our school year is finished where most kids are out of the house, at least during the day. Yesterday started my yearly “week.” Well, almost 4 days, but that is close to 5 days, so close to a business week. Grandpa took the three older boys along with a cousin to go camping. I am left with a beautiful almost 6 year old (though if you ask him, he is actually 5, and will very quickly correct you if you try to say he is 5 and a half or something similar,) which is a good thing for I am not sure what I would do if he was gone as well! I am not sure I would do well to go cold turkey for an entire week. A day, yes, maybe even a night, but a week? I just got my husband off to work and am now sitting in the living room with a sleeping boy across from me on the couch. He was too lonely to sleep upstairs all by himself so I said he could sleep on the couch downstairs, for we were also downstairs.

I did have BIG plans for the week, but I quickly saw that I would have to change plans to make the week feel worthwhile. I was going to start by organizing the books in the house- the living room, family room, dining room and upstairs on the landing. We have a lot. 5 built in book cases and 8 that we brought into the house. A Jewish, Homeschooling family isKIMG0588 (1) the worst for books for not only do we have the requisite homeschooling books, which is the gathering-of-as-many-books-that-we-find-interesting-as-we-can-get, but it means the in-gathering-of-as-many-Judaic-books-we-can-get as well. So, I guess we are getting close to being able to open up our own library. I did start by collecting all our sefarim into the dining room, but that took me about 10 minutes for they were basically there anyways. Then I got stuck for I was not quite sure what I wanted to do from there. I have a variety of actual school books that we use – some as books and some books in 3-ring binders. We were talking about putting school books in our converted wet bar area (we had someone take out the sink and make a built in book case there for we just needed more book shelves!) It seems the best place for school books like binders for there are doors to close off any mess. I’m just not sure.

I did not have to worry about things too much though yesterday, for after gathering in all the sefarim, Mr. Little wanted a freezie which I bought the day before.  I said yes and before I could get my shoes on and get myself ready to go outside, he was done. I told him he needed to get a second one then. I did not get any complaints from him. It is definitely summer time now, and has been for about a week. The weather has been in the mid 90’s and it is staying. It is funny how you can just tell. Spring can have a day here and there that is hot but you know it is not summer yet, but when the first day or two of summer heat comes, you know. There is something different about spring heat and summer heat.

I let him choose where to go, and he decided to go towards the creek that is the next block over. He told me we were to walk until he finished half his freezie and then we were going to turn

Find the school of fish!
Find the school of fish!

around. We walked a little and we talked a little. He asked some questions and then it was time to turn around. We stopped off on the bridge crossing the creek and enjoyed looking down at it. With all the rain and storms last month, the creek really did overflow and last week we saw the bent grasses and the sticks, logs and other debris that water leaves on the banks of the creek. Yesterday it was all back to normal, the debris had all been cleared away and the grasses were standing nice and tall again. Last Sunday we took a walk along a bridge downtown and the river that is usually almost dry was still flooded.You could not see the trunks of the trees and the stop sign was covered up to the red octagon. There was damage 45-60 minutes west of us and then south through Houston, but we were just fine though. BaruchKIMG0564 Hashem. I realized that it does not just rain, or dribble here, it storms. That means that lots of water comes down at once. It is hard to go from the car to the house door without getting drenched, unless you have a rain jacket and boots. So, I decided to use our school money to get everyone rain boots and rain jackets and 2 nice umbrellas. All were extremely useful this year and everyone loved to walk through the water and rain. Even Mr. Big was caught walking to and from shul using the path that had the water draining on the side of the roads. Definitely CM style learning and I’m sticking to it.

But back to our walk. Mr. Little and I were talking about how the water was making the various lines in the sand and the water when I spotted fish! We both ran down to the KIMG0551bank and sure enough there were lots of little fish. And then we saw even smaller fish, all swimming around in a school. Mr. Little when further down where the water was a little deeper and we found bigger fish over there. We enjoyed watching them. He has a fascination for dragon flies so he had to take my phone several times to take pictures and videos of the dragon flies. With his freezie long gone, we went back home for lunch. On the way home he told me this was the first time he took someone out for a walk and he was proud of the fact and had lots of fun. And here I was thinking I was the one taking him for a walk. I was not going to argue with him and decided to let myself feel honored.

Instead of book organizing today, I think I need to do boys’ rooms organizing instead. It definitely will take the two of us all day to do it, at the minimum, but will give the most feelings of satisfaction of actually having accomplished something this week if nothing

Mr. Little is quite a photographer of dragon flies.
Mr. Little is quite a photographer of dragon flies.

else, so I think that is what we should do. Books can wait until tomorrow, or even when boys come back. School is basically done, at least I have officially thought so. We still have a book or two that we will be finishing up over the summer, but since it is an audio we are listening to, it makes it feel less like school. And my plans for the summer? Since I don’t even know myself, I just need to say I have written too much today and I’ll save it for another posting. 😉

OH! I promised last time to tell you about our project. Well, since there are multiple

Had a hard time with lighting on my phone for it was so tall!
Had a hard time with lighting on my phone for it was so tall!

Amateur Radio Operators in the house, and more in the works, we put up an antenna – it goes up about 45 feet. We finally got the coax fixed nicely (that is the wire that connects the antenna to the radio in the house,) and contact have been made. They even talked to someone from our old city in NYS! Kind of cool.  Mr. Little is making some movements now, he might be ready to get up soon. I wonder where he is going to take me today. 😀

Cheesecake, Mud, Sticks and Being Happy

KIMG0489We are almost there! Mr. Little and I have almost finished filling in our Sefiras HaOmer chart. He is very proud of himself. I think he missed one day (though I am not telling him that,) with just a couple of stickers left to put on. (I found a chart off of chinuch.org and put packing tape over it to make it stronger and put our stickers on each day.)

Over the past week I have been thinking about how nice it would be to sit down and write more on my blog. Lately, after my husband is sent off to work, I take up to an hour to do “nothing” and then exercise and shower before getting the boys out of bed. I really feel good, physically, about doing that. Mentally, it takes me the 1.5-2 hours to wipe the cobwebs away from the night, so havingKIMG0403 to get up at 5:30 am 6 or 7 days a week is really good for me (though I still do not really like doing it, it is one of those love-hate relationships.) This morning, when I was thinking how nice it would be to write a little bit to y’all, that little voice in my head turned around and said, “and so, what are you doing about that?” That little voice reminded me that thinking about something will not produce it. That, in turn, reminded me of the mann that we received in the midbar (desert); we just had to *think* about what we wanted it to taste like and it happened. Which was the reason why we had to think about the tastes we wanted on Friday before Shabbos, for for us, at that time, since our thinking created something, it was forbidden to do on Shabbos. Our thinking was our cooking and baking, both forbidden to us on Shabbos. Unfortunately, I am not on that level yet. Baruch Hashem I still have a couple more days of the omer to work on myself!

I am sitting here, trying to ponder on the last two weeks, which is another reason why I should blog more frequently again, for two weeks full of “stuff” is a long time to remember. We have been busy, and yet we have not. The “stuff” we have done you might call it KIMG0417something like “unstuff” for there was a lot of stuff not done, which was the purpose. Mr. Big was doing solely his online college classes this semester. We noticed a change in him about half way through the course. He was not as happy and outgoing as he used to be, and less energetic. Much more of an introvert. We knew the answer as to why – sitting all day on the computer and mostly by himself – but there was not much we could think of doing until his classes were finished. He was finally finished with everything last week, and I had my “plan.” I was so excited about it and talked to my husband about it for several weeks. I was pumped. And then last Monday, he was sick. Sigh. After feeling a bit depressed, I dusted myself off and continued my plan with the other boys while he slept and got better.

I came up with my plan for I am reading The Secret Garden to Mr. Little. At first he did not want me to read, but he was excited to see if Mary ever found the key and found the garden, that he let me read. Now, he tries to get me to read two chapters a night. As weKIMG0446 were reading about a sickly, lethargic, cross little girl, and how she started to transform into a real thinking, happy person, I remembered all my Charlotte Mason readings (I have not read all 6 volumes, but maybe enough to say one whole book? But, I have read the important parts and the rest is really just commentary,) and how she states that children should be outside (ideally) for 4-6 hours a day, being with nature, playing and just absorbing all the fresh air, sunshine and elements. I do try to keep that in mind, even though I don’t seem to be able to take that advice much, but I do keep trying. So, after starting to read The Secret Garden, my mind opened up.

My plan was to basically not do any school work. Mr. Big (and the rest of us, but him in particular) really needed to get back outside and playing in dirt, mud, with sticks, getting dirty, etc. We needed the sunshine to wipe all those cobwebs and dirt away to make our minds sparkle again. My biggest hurdle was knowing where to go. Being still new here, I did not know where there were any good parks nearby. I did not want the regular parks with slides and swings, I wanted a forest park. It took a few minutes of online work, but I found one that seemed like it would be near (in the suburb right next to us, so I just assumed…..) and off the rest of us went. I was relieved to find out that the GPS said it was only about 15 minutes away. It was the most amazing place for us to be. It was exactly what we were looking for and needed. There was a water fountain if needed, bathrooms, yes, a small playground set, and a few signs telling about the place. But most importantly, it had walking trails through the trees, dirt, sticks, and to our surprise, a little creek that was just perfect for boys to walk in with their shoes and pants and shirts….and get thoroughly wet. It was not raining that day, but we have had a lot of rain (15 inches in two weeks kind of rain,) and as I write, we are in the midst of another storm (it really storms here mostly, not just rain.)

So, in short, we all had fun. I did not venture into the water like they did, but I so enjoyed the sunshine, smells of nature, and just sitting there watching the boys…well…be boys. It KIMG0460was such a hit that on Tuesday, when Mr. Big did feel better, and I told the boys we were not doing school work yet again, and we were going out, there were shouts and yells and pleading about going back to the same place, which was the plan. The first day, it was mud and water, which surprised me for I thought there would be sticks as well. We did some math though and found out this math equation: Mud+Water=Shoesstuckandfallingoff. However, they did not disappoint me on day two and they found the sticks and the skipping rocks as well. Even though Mr. Big thought he was too big to play in the water and get thoroughly wet, like his brothers, he roamed, got his shoes all wet by walking in the water, and I even caught him with his hands all full of mud. Yes, deep down inside, he is still a boy, and I was so happy to see that!

Wednesday, one of the first things was, “Can we go back to the water?!?!?!?!” No, we found a different place. We didn’t have much time for it was raining on and off, and I did not want to get tired of such a fun place too quickly. As we were driving around and around and around, trying to find the entrance of the walking trail (it ended up being a biking/walking trail opposed to a nice forest park, but it went through trees and under bridges so we had fun walking,) I decided it was time to purchase rain boots and rain jackets and umbrellas.

Thursday started out with, “where are we going today, Mommy?”. It was really hot and humid and we found another park, though we had to stay on the paved trail for theKIMG0424 unpaved area, where I wanted to go, was all rained out. Only 1 boy was smart enough to bring his new rain boots, and he got to go through the little “lakes” on the grass (some were knee deep!)

My initial plan was to be somewhere for 3-4 hours, but we never stayed more than 1.5 hours, but it definitely was worth it. It did not take much, and by Sunday we saw the fruits of the (oh so hard 😉 ) labour. Mr. Big started smiling more, he looked a bit more happy than he was. Yes, just the fact that he did not have school helped, and yes, even the fact that I took him off of almost all computer time helped, but I think things moved faster with our outings. Monday morning, after he came home from shul, he told me he was helping the rabbi with the shul’s renovations and needed a tape measure and that he is going to Lowes with the rabbi to get stuff. He was in the house, talked to me, got what he wanted and was gone again in abut 45 seconds. I stood there and smiled. *THIS* is what I remembered him being like. We did not go out to forests this week, but he has spent most of his week going to Lowes with the rabbi and changing faucets and whatnot at the shul (all by himself (and he is only 14!)) He is confident, smiley, teaseable, and is interested in his amateur radio again. *happy tears*

Lesson learned: Mr. Big needs his online college classes, that is how we are getting him into university to be able to get him what he wants. We do not want him in a classroom there yet, we feel the college atmosphere is not good for him, at least not right now. But, instead of 4-5 classes at a time, we will focus on 1 class. The rest of the learning will be with me, which is what I want (and miss…) so that way he is with people most of the day.

I’m off, I need to finish getting myself ready and wake up the rest of the beautiful boys. Mr. Big is supposed to be studying for his General Class license, but he is busy playing with his radio…. need to bug him to find his book. Next time, I’ll be able to tell you all about our family project we are in the middle of!

KIMG0466Wishing everyone a wonderful Shavuos, and I’m reminded that means the giving of the cheesecake, which we already made this week (yum!) I am thinking I will wake boys up with their favorite song of the season; Stay Up All Night. And since we are just a few days away, I won’t mind them playing it many times over the next few days.

Chag Sameach!