Your Jewish Homeschool Curriculum Made Much Easier!

Hello Everyone!

I tried to write this post a while ago, but we have a new web hosting package and even though I was assured that I was not losing anything, I really am, and I was not able to write my post without my server resources being used up and having to wait and redo it all! So, I had to come up with another way of posting that will work until I get around to calling them and not having to spend $200 just so I can write text on my blog!

One of the big issues for Jewish homeschoolers has always been in creating a Judaic curriculum. After homeschooling for 12 years, I have finally put together a list of Judaic curriculum resources useful to Homeschoolers, and the grades they usually match up with. Most of the resources are free, and most can be found on chinuch.org. All I did was go through the resources to find the kinds of things that many homeschooling families are looking for – “What do Day Schools teach?” And then, the second question that most people do not get to for they don’t usually get the first question answered, but is in their minds – “How do I do it?” So, I went through tens of thousands of resources posted on chinuch.org and weeded out what I thought were the kinds of materials most appropriate in a homeschool setting. They are grouped by subject and then by grade range they are most suited for.

Firstly, please keep in mind that this is just a starting place! I have definitely included a lot that many people might be able to use my list to create a full curriculum for many years, however, please note that there will probably be some gaps that need filling in after a few years, so keep that in mind. There is still some information I want to include but is not on yet.

1. Most of what is posted are links to chinuch.org. Chinuch.org is part of Torah U’Mesorah. It is a teachers resource site where teachers can submit classroom ideas and worksheets for others to use. Teachers post their materials and someone at Torah U’Mesorah looks them over to make sure they are appropriate before making them available. Most of what is posted is supplementary material. Homeschooling parents are looking for complete programs or themes. I went through a huge portion of these materials to find complete “kits”. Bonus – Everything on chinuch.org is free. ūüôā

2. There are other sites that I have listed. Many of those are not free but are definitely worth looking at if your budget allows.

How do you use my list? All you need to do is find the subject that you are interested in looking at, then go to the grade level (Elementary, Middle School, High School) and see if anything there fits your needs. I tried to find several options for each grade level, though I was not always successful. Just do this for each subject you are looking for.

Again, this was made as a STARTING place, and you might need to fill in the few gaps you may find. The link below will take you to a Google Document of my list. If you have any issues opening it up, please sent me a message. Extra bonus: My list is free, so please pass the link around to your friends who might need it!

Click here for the list

If you have a link that you think would be good, please let me know and I will take a look at it.

Hope you enjoy!

A Thank You

KIMG1010Someone posted a link¬†to a blog on Facebook. The title sounded intriguing, “How to be a rockstar homeschool¬†spouse.” Who doesn’t want to be a rockstar homeschool spouse? Kara, the author,¬†posted all about how, despite her wackiness and despite her being the primary teacher to their chidlren, she has acknowledged all the amazing hidden help she has received from her husband. She has challenged others to write a thank you to that special someone. So, here is mine:

To My Wonderful Husband,

You have entrusted me with your precious jewels. That is an amazing (and when I think about it, scary) thought! Even though we do not always see eye to eye, you still trust me.

There have been times when we have taken turns wondering if we are doing the right thing, yet, you still trust me.

I know that often times you do not feel like you contribute, but you should know that you are the staple of our lives. We know that you work hard to support us. You are always there for us.

Your precious jewels are precious to you and you make sure they get all that they need Рfrom starting mishnayos at shul for them, to starting a new Boy Scout troop and being the Scoutmaster when no one else would take the position. You are the counselor for merit badges and you build antennas for radios with them. You take them biking (when it is not too hot!), and love to take all of us hiking in the woods.

You are also there for me. You listen to my frustrations, as well as all my excitement in planning our year. You smile when I am excited about getting a book, and you are there when the day was tough and I need you to take over when you come home.

You put up with us when the house is a mess, and are there celebrating with us with accomplishments.

It may not feel to you that you do much, but without you we couldn’t do it. You are our life support. All the little (and big) behind the scene things you do are what keep us all here.

Thank you and Happy Birthday to the best Daddy out there for our precious jewels!

It’s Summer Vacation… I Guess

KIMG0621It is easy to get into a mode and forget what is really going on or should be going on. This year has been a year of treading water and I kept saying to myself that summer is almost here and we will start fresh next year. I need the summer to organize the house better after moving in. Aside from making the house look a little bit nicer, it will help me with our learning. All our boxes from the move were emptied and contents put somewhere in a frantic few weeks before Pesach, just to check for chometz and get the boxes out of the house, but we did not put things in a proper home. I am not used to “summer” starting a month early. ¬†I think about every place I have lived, school has finished mid-late June, not the end of May. Summer for kids has been here for a month now, with one more month to go. I realized that I might as well be finished for the school year, take the next month to “chill” in the 95 degree heat (with lots of ice,) do at least some of the organizing and just let the boys chill out as well. So, that was it. We don’t give out certificates, though we did the first year or two, then it never seemed to work out, so I don’t think about it now. It was just, “Ok boys, school’s finished.” Just like that. ¬†I don’t think it even phased them for they were busy camping with Grandpa and what not that they were not doing much of anything anyways.

It feels weird to let the boys hang. Especially this year when I felt that I had to try to cram things in when I could for there were lots of times that we did not do much because of all the moves, it feels strange. I feel rather relieved, which is a nice thing. I don’t feel guiltyKIMG0659 about them not doing their work. My husband was complaining that he does not think they did much this year. I am the first one to admit that is the case, and even though I have tried to tell him and explain to him multiple times throughout the year, it is hard when he is not here and seeing things for himself. And yes, even when we had a week here or there to just do school, there were multiple occasions when I had a hard time motivating myself and just did not feel like doing anything because of all that was going on in our lives.

I do feel optimistic though. I think this allowed time off is good for now I don’t worry about trying to teach and I have time to try to organize (which we already started last week!) I 2015-06-21am not sure how much time I have for organizing for we always seem to be doing something. But I have big plans, both for school and¬†for the house, though not quite sure about what I am doing exactly I’m doing, but I have plans. ūüôā Yesterday the scouts had their first campout. It was really good with all but 2 boys there and several fathers coming. Mr. Little made cupcakes for the fathers (and boys) in honor of Father’s Day. Father’s got first pick at cupcakes for once. They were even able to hang a flag on their portable Ham Radio antenna!

Speaking of radios, last Friday was a Ham Fest (which did not start on Shabbos!) and so we all spent the afternoon roaming around the candy store for Hams. We even had an extra boy tag along with us. Mr. Big surprised us by actually taking his license manual on the camping trip with Grandpa and spend some time going over his manual. When he came home he announce that he wanted to upgrade his license at the Ham Fest. We looked at him and asked if he thought he was going to pass (it costs money to write the tests.) “I don’t know.” He definitely did not sound convincing. We made an agreement with him that we would pay if he thought he had a good chance of passing. He told us that we only needed to pay for one more test and if needed, he would pay for additional testings. Sounded fair enough. When we arrived at the convention center, he took off to write his test while the rest of us went through the candy store. It was a pretty cool place, even if one is not too interested – I do have my license but I am not interested like all the boys are. We even talked to the severe weather watch people and brought home some really nice posters on clouds. (Ham operators often times get certified as spotters so they can help watch for and call in weather warnings, for a big plus of being a Ham is for emergency preparedness.)

After what seemed like forever, we finally got a call on our radios from Mr. Big. He was wanted to know where to find us. Nothing about the test, but that is like him. Mr. Big #2 KIMG0650was the first to comment – even though Mr. Big was still too far away to say hi to. Did he or didn’t he, that was the question. Mr. Big #2 saw a sticker on his brother’s shirt and knew (though we could not read what it said.) As he came closer, sure enough, he had the tell tail signs of someone who passed – the small rectangle piece of paper proving all that hard work paid off! We were surprised! He did a LOT more¬†studying¬†without us knowing than we realized. Great job! Incidentally, that is now the reason why we have a hole in our ceiling; they wanted to put up an antenna in the attic that Mr. Big could now use…

Next week we’re off for a week trip with Grandpa. Not sure when I am organizing, but at least I don’t have to worry about school! ūüôā

First Day of School

Well, today is the first day of school and my children have been given the privilege of sleeping in.  Yes, so now you are believing the stereotype of homeschoolers sleeping in and going to school in their pajamas, etc.  I will tell you that is not how I run my school.  Normally.  But today is not a normal day.

This last weekend was a 4 day weekend for Daddy.  He got Friday off as well as Monday off.  The boys had fun making a 10 meter antenna for Amateur Radio (Ham Radio for short,) watching Daddy climb high up in the tree to hang it, and I think they even tested it a little bit.  The antenna is not finished, but almost.  On Sunday, the boys went flying in a private airplane with the Scouts and had a wonderful time, and then we all went camping.

The car was packed and we headed straight out to Ossian State Forest.¬† We found our way to Evergreen Pond where there was supposed to be a primitive camping spot available on a first come first serve basis.¬† The camping area was right off the road, and we sat down at the picnic table and decided to stay.¬† We even saw a lot of road kill, just in case we were hungry. (See picture of frog) ūüėȬ† After hearing a shotgun and my husband actually SEEING the hunter and yelling at him to be careful and the hunter very recklessly swinging the gun around and apologizing, we decided it was not the place for us.¬† So, with strict orders to the older boys to sit at the table and not move, we took the younger one and off we went to find another spot.¬† It was not long before we found a nicer spot – off the main road, down a path, with a fire pit and wood available for us to use.¬† (You are not permitted to bring wood into the forest for potential of invasive insects coming and destroying the forest, but you are permitted to use wood found in the forest.)

We had a blast!¬† Two tents were put up, fire was started and the boys had fun roasting potatoes and having baked beans for supper.¬† We put the fire out and went to bed.¬† The boys went to bed really good – almost immediately!¬† The next morning the boys got up quite early surprisingly, however, that did not help them in packing up their tent!¬† They just could not get it done in less than 2.5 hours!¬† (Don’t really blame them, I hate packing up as well, but it needs to get done!)¬† To try to help them out I said no breakfast until it was finished.¬†¬† Not sure it helped ūüėȬ† but we finally got everything packed up, a new fire made for coffee that was accidentally left on the counter, davened and ate.

We finished and packed up the few remaining items around 12:30.  Nothing had gone the way my husband wanted it to that morning (and it did not help that I forgot the coffee!)  However, we left, got some coffee and spent some time walking around a Lowes that we found in the area.  We decided we were just looking at ladders (for the antenna!) and we had no set time to leave.  I made lunch before we took off again.  We were going to try to do a geocache before going home.  We went to Hemlock Lake Рthat is the lake where we get our water from.  Unfortunately, there were a few grumpy people, and when grumpy people are in the same vehicle, it affects everyone for there is no room to go and hide.

We ended driving around to the west side of the lake and finding a trail down the forest.  The plan was for the four big boys to hike in the old growth forest around the lake to a meeting point on the other side.  The littlest boy and I were going to meet them over there in the van.  DH took his phone with the GPS on it and a Ham radio for the phone did not have a signal very reliably.  This was around 4:45pm.

Everything went fine until they had traveled a long ways, the trail ended and they went bush wacking.  Then the phone decided it was going to get ready to die.  I was given a few location coordinates before the phone died.  The area was very marshy and full of thickets and wild roses, making it extremely difficult to walk through.  It was not until about 7:30 that I started to get really worried.  It was almost sunset.  It was going to be getting dark very soon.  I told them to turn their radio off for a while to make sure they would continue to have battery when needed.  8:20 I called 9-1-1.  The lady dispatcher was very nice and helpful.  She dispatched the sheriff who was a few towns over, so it took a few minutes to get to where I was.  She stayed on the phone with me and we kept tabs on what was happening to the boys.  As we were trying to narrow down their location, the sheriff came and we drove to where he thought everyone might be.  He shined his light in the forest and yes, boys saw it!  By this  time there were more police cars driving around at various spots, that I only found out later.  It was not that much longer before they were on their way and close to coming out of the forest.

They came out at a different place to where I was at the moment and the sheriff and I drove to them.  Around 9:30 they finally made it out! As they climbed out one at a time, you can be sure that each one got a hug!  My oldest was a great trooper, never complaining, just chugging along in the bush.  Another boy was almost in tears Рhe was scared and was just so glad to be out!  The third boy did not say much other than smile and say he was glad to be out.  The biggest boy?  I think he was a bit dazed.  I do not think it really hit him fully until this morning.

There were almost a dozen police cars, fire trucks and ambulances over there.¬† I want to thank the Livingston County Sheriff department and the Springwater volunteer ambulance and everyone else that came.¬† Obviously they were just Hashem’s messengers and even though we need to thank them, it was ultimately Hashem’s doing that they were found that quickly.¬† I also thank Hashem that the batteries in the radio lasted the entire time, for without the radio it would have required a whole lot more time and energy to find them!

We finally got home around 11pm.  We had not eaten supper, but I made everyone hot chocolate and they got as much orange juice as they wanted.  Other than being smoked out from our camp fires, they needed to get clean from their hike!  After getting clean and filling the tummies a little bit, they were all tucked into bed.  It was then that I told them they could sleep in on the first day of school.  I finally woke them up at 10 am to say brachos, eat and clean the table.

So now, the biggest brave boy is at work, and the others are in Room613 for the open house.  The little one who did not have a bath last night just washed himself and is getting dressed.  The day will involve our math like we have done in the summer, and the afternoon is going to involve emptying the van and perhaps washing it (if it does not rain!)

So that, my friends, is why my boys got to sleep in on our first day of school.

Re-Evaluating

The last week started off wonderful.  After our wonderful relaxing time at the park, we went to bed with the news that a friend of ours got engaged. We were, of course, very excited for him.  When we first met him, he was in college.  During the years he was in college we got to know him fairly well and always enjoyed his company.  He has since left town and is working.  We have had the opportunity to talk to him occasionally since then and we are impressed at how much he has grown since we first met him.  Yes, I know, years and experience will do that to a person, but there is also the influence of everyone around you as well.  I felt that, or perhaps it was just that I hoped that, we had some small part in this growth.

I then got to thinking about my own children.  Parents are always wanting to do the right thing, to raise the best children, to instill all the good middos.  The question is are we doing it?  I have been busy working on our new school schedule this week.  It is a great time to think about the direction we are all heading and what needs to change.  I do not think it is a coincidence that the new school year happens to be at the same time Rosh Hashanah is.  (Well, not including exceptions such as South Africa and Australia!)

Three days of work and I think I have a fairly good schedule. ¬†I believe I have learned stuff myself and have learned that even though technically we can get everything done by a certain time, life happens and it will not work. ¬†I have remembered to put extra time in between each subject to leave room for boys not working like robots and taking a bit of time to find their stuff that is in their drawers, as well as to leave time for a certain 3 year old who demands attention at seemingly the “wrong” time, which really is not the wrong time, it is just that is his way of reminding me that I have forgotten about him, or so he thinks.

Aside from schedules, I also am in the yearly process of trying to rearrange our school area to make it the best it can. ¬†Someone on one of my email lists sent a photo of their area – a 4×4 Ikea cubicle. ¬†That way it makes things easy to organize. ¬†We cannot purchase anything at the moment, so I’m trying to make my 3-shelf cabinet work very similar. ¬†Each boy has a shelf for their books. ¬†On top, I have drawers for things such as paints, pencils, erasers, and other non-book type items.

All that was the easy part.    The harder part is looking back at what worked for each child, and what did not.  How did I handle each child?  I definitely learned a lot this past year.  I too have grown.  How do I handle my three year old when he needs attention?  I have made sure I incorporated extra time in between subjects.  I have also included time where a brother gets to play with him and keep him occupied.  How do I handle an older brother who can get difficult?  I have found out that he also craves One-on-One attention.  That might sound funny to a homeschool parent who teaches each child separately to begin with, but it is so much more that meets the eye.  This child functions so much better and is a lot easier to teach when no one is in the room, or at least not moving (i.e. reading a book by himself and not talking.)  Math is best done after everyone is finished and I can give him my 100% attention and not be interrupted by others.  Giving extra chores when the wrong behavior is exhibited I found is a good end to many tantrums and keeps me calm.

It is also a time to look at the direction that each of us is taking.  We have made several changes throughout the year on how we run our daily lives (outside of school,) in order to try to steer our children along the right path.  When we see a negative trait peeking through too much, we have tried to correct it.  However, a new school year is also a good time for new road markers for the boys seem more readily accepting, or rather less suspicious (and therefore less arguing about our new rules), when we can find an excuse to incorporate the new road markers in with a new school year.

The introspection does not stop here. ¬†Amid all of the work I am doing for our boys and our new school year, I also need to find a few moments to look at myself. ¬†Am I the best parent, the best teacher, the best wife, and the best friend that I can be? ¬†Yes, I have already done part of it by following the steps above, but there is more to do. ¬†I have to work hard on being the best me I can be so that, IY”H, our children can be the best they can be.

Learning From Everything

We had an amazingly wonderful weekend Рboth Shabbos as well as Sunday.  Friday afternoon was rather wet.  It not only rained, but it poured.  However, since rain brings brachos, I definitely look back and see various brachos that we had the entire weekend.  It started out with two wonderful and amazing guests that we had, which made our entire Shabbos just wonderful, and it continued through Sunday and our afternoon in a park.

As some of you remember, we had the opportunity to attend the Jewish Homeschooling Conference in Baltimore at the beginning of May.  While there, our older boys became friends with 2 brothers.  When part of this particular family had to spend Shabbos in our town, on their way to camp, the 2 brothers asked to stay with us opposed to where the rest of the family was staying.  I had only briefly met the boys in May, but when they arrived on Friday afternoon, soaked from the walk from the car to the house, I looked at them and at their smiles and their eyes, I could tell they were really good boys.  I am not quite sure what any of the 6 boys did until Shabbos, but I do know they all were very excited and had a great time together.

You can usually tell a homeschool child from their peers, and these boys were no exception. ¬†As my husband and I talked to them during the Shabbos meal, they felt very comfortable and very willingly engaged into the conversations. ¬†The younger one (10 yrs) was the chattier one, but even with the older one (12 yrs) it was almost like talking to an adult. ¬†Almost…There was still something very kid like about them, but it was all in a good way. ūüôā

It was amazing the knowledge these boys had – about almost every subject that was brought up. My husband loves maps and can keep his nose looking at one for hours – the same one. ¬†We have huge laminated maps of both the United States as well as the world on the wall around our table. ¬†It is referenced very regularly. ¬†However, this night, my husband finally met his match. ¬†Apparently these boys also love maps and they were able to teach the rest of us, including my husband, a very interesting fact about our own country. ¬†We found out that there is a tiny part of the state of Kentucky that is totally separated from the rest of the state – it is called an exclave and¬†it is surrounded by the states of¬†Tennessee¬†and¬†Missouri. ¬†This piece of Kentucky is called Kentucky Bend. ¬†Not to be outdone by a 10 year old, my husband was able to use this new vocabulary word to point out what he learned before going on his business trip to Spain. ¬†Spain has exclaves as well in the northern tip of Morocco. ¬†(It turns out, as I researched this now, there is yet another exclave¬†of Spain just to the north, in France –Ll√≠via.)

I enjoyed the visit, I know my boys did, and I think the guests did as well for as their mother picked them up after Shabbos, they were trying to convience their mother into making plans to come back home the same way so they could again stop off at our house.  In the meantime, I had to purchase plastic lacing for my boys have learned a new hobby!

On Sunday we took a drive to Oatka Creek Park, NY.  It was our first time there.  We were not sure about it at first, but it turned out to be just what we needed.  We found a little spot just off the path, but out of the way, right by the creek.  We brought our portable BBQ

and reheated some leftover chicken and potatoes.  After a nice hot lunch, the boys spent the next several hours in the creek, playing with seaweed, throwing stones, climbing trees.  In other words, just have a blast!  While the big boys waded in the creek (some barefoots, one with shoes!) the little one and I spent time observing an inch worm walk up the magnificent tree.

They say we can learn from everything and everyone. ¬†As I look back at our guests, I’m in awe. ¬†It was wonderful to hear different facts about Indians, geography, as well as meet others who know about the Crusades and other historical facts. ¬†(Some of our boys have learned about the Crusades, so that is a bonus for us!) ¬†Granted the mother has been homeschooling more than twice as long as I have, however, I think we can create that wealth of information in our children as well. ¬†The tricky part is the how. ¬†I have wanted to go next door to the library and bring home books for several years now, but I just do not have the time to go through the various books they have there and choose. I have also tried going in with a list of books (like about 20), but I usually only come out with 2 of them. ¬†So, I think I will try to send the boys to the library and tell them to pick out books about a subject they are interested in. ¬†They can choose a different subject each time, that way it widens their knowledge base. ¬†This way, I hope to limit the books read to learning books, non-fiction and historical fiction books, and not all the other junk that is there.

I also would like to spend more time with nature, just observing.  I always liked hands-on stuff myself.  I remember in high school physics, one class my teacher would bring in magnets, and he would pass them around for all of us to feel and observe.  The next year, I had a different teacher, and this teacher was not in the habit of passing things around.  One time I did ask to take a look at whatever he was teaching about.  I think he was taken off guard.  He did give the items to me though to look at.

It was exciting for me (never mind my 3 year old) to watch that little inch worm.  It would occasionally stick out straight as a little twig on the tree branch when it felt it need to camouflage itself.  It was wonderful to listen to where a 3 year old thinks the tiny inch worm sleeps at night Рunder the huge hole in the ground by the base of the tree Рa hole big enough for a 3 year old!  It was also fun just watching the older boys spend hours in the creek, exploring, observing, finding little shrimps and fish, throwing rocks, getting their pants wet, enjoying themselves to pieces and not realizing they are actually doing schoolwork!

So, as I am finalizing my schedule for the coming year, I am taking the inspiration from our guests and their mother and beautifulness of our Sunday afternoon and trying to put all of that into our year as well.

I was asked *THE* question

I am usually a very confident person, especially when it comes to our homeschooling, but for some reason, when *the* question was put to me recently, I felt very not confident and my mind went blank.  It is not like we have not been asked that question before Рafter all, we are now in our 8th year of homeschooling!  So, for my mind to go blank was very not like me.  I do not know why I froze.  It could have been just the way the question was posed, the tone of voice she used perhaps put me on the defensive side, and it could have been because it was someone who has known my kids for many years and all of a sudden she asked this question.  Or, just a combination of it all.  (Photo taken from here.)

Anyone who has homeschooled knows what *the* question is, it is the most famous question a homeschool parent is asked (and yes I can even hear some of you snickering!): ‚ÄúWhat about SOCIALIZATION? Do your kids SOCIALIZE?‚ÄĚ

I think everyone understands the importance of these two words, but I am not sure how many people actually understand what they mean. Socialization means a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position. In other words, taking children out to various places, stores, the market, etc. and teaching them how to interact with the various kinds of people from various walks of life is teaching them socialization. Socializing means to make social; to seek or enjoy the companionship of others. So, having my children become friends with each other and playing with each other (as well as some peers) would be socializing. (Definitions from dictionary.com)

I thought I saved an email from one of my homeschool email lists that had a beautiful response to this question, but for the life of me I cannot seem to find it anymore.  I would like to post it if I do find it.  In the meantime, I would like to post part of an article that was sent to me by my sister from the August 19, 2009 Homeschool.com e-zine. (The article can be found here.)

For centuries, children have learned socialization within the context of their own family and community. Institutionalized education is relatively new to the human condition. It is, and it always has been, through the home environment, that children learn the vast majority of their socialization skills.

Research supports this.¬† According to¬†Home¬†Schooling and the Question of¬†Socialization¬†by Richard G. Medlin, “Home-schooled children are taking part in the daily routines of their communities. They are certainly not isolated; in fact, they associate with–and feel close to–all sorts of people.”

He continues, “Home¬†schooling parents can take much of the credit for this. For, with their children’s long-term social development in mind, they actively encourage their children to take advantage of social opportunities outside the family.¬†Home-schooled children are acquiring the rules of behavior and systems of beliefs and attitudes they need. They have good self-esteem and are likely to display fewer behavior problems than do other children. They may be more socially mature and have better leadership skills than other children as well. And they appear to be functioning effectively as members of adult society.”

This and other studies support the irony of the socialization issue in¬†homeschooling¬†that we have known for years, which is that traditional schools are actually more on a path of¬†de-socialization.¬† In traditional schools students learn to stay in a class to which they’ve been assigned and are grouped according to age and academic level, and generally with students from the same geographic area and socio-economic background.

So in a sense, as I like to say, many people are homeschooling because of socialization reasons.

That seems to sum it all up very nicely.  I take my children all over the place Рto stores, to the market, on other errands that need to be done.  They learn how to talk to various kinds of people, and people of various ages.  Oh yes, they also get to play with peers, they attend Scouts and we try to get them into camps when we can, among other things.  Some other ideas for socialization are:

  • Getting involved with homeschool co-ops
  • Less structured homeschool gatherings
  • Local field trips where you meet people from all walks of life
  • Community events such as scouting, 4-H, sports, etc.
  • Volunteer. ¬†There is usually a minimum age requirement, however, some places will allow a younger volunteer if a parent stays with them.
  • Don’t forget about online socialization. ¬†There are many children who are registered in virtual online classes in which they meet and interact with other students.

As I am finishing up, our mailman just drove down the street after finishing his route, honked and waved to my boys as they were going on a walk.  They enjoy talking to him, and I think he enjoys talking to them!

I am posting a link to a very cute video.  When I told one of my boys I was going to include it, he quoted his favorite line (after only watching it 2 times and it was several months ago at that,) and the two of us had a very good laugh, so I hope you all enjoy it as much as we did!

Pesach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When Mommy is sick

It is hard enough when a dear child is sick, but what happens when you are sick?¬† It is very easy to feel guilty when you cannot teach but the truth is, sometimes the teacher is sick.¬† In a school, they bring in a substitute teacher.¬† Sometimes the substitute teacher can go on a bit in the lessons, however, many times they are more like a babysitter and the students get fun things to do to pass the time.¬† Life happens, it’s okay.¬† So, if schools can do it, why can’t we?

Think of it as a snow day.  Occasionally the weather has it so that the principals decide they have to shut down schools for a day or two.  What happens then?  Well, the students do not get any learning done in school.  When we, the teachers, get sick, we have to accept it and do what we need to do to make ourselves better. Call a snow day.

Many times the hard part really comes when we need to figure out what to do with our children while we are sick.¬† A teacher in a school just calls up the school and calls in sick.¬† Unfortunately, homeschooling parents do not have that one luxury.¬† Sometimes there are friends that we can call up and pawn a child or two off on, at least for a few hours so we can rest.¬† Many times we cannot.¬† Many times the children are left to mostly “fend for themselves” while we just show our presence to make sure the house stays standing.¬† Letting children keep themselves busy while we recuperate can be very stressful in itself.¬† Unless one has a maid or a nanny to help around the house, and/or the children are all mature, responsible teenagers, the house will most likely be messier than usual. This anticipation of the messes can put extra stress on the sick parent as they try to prevent disasters.¬† This in turn can prolong our sickness for instead of resting so our bodies can focus energy on healing, our bodies focus on moving and talking and thinking, leaving not much energy to fight off the illness.

What are some tips to help us cope?

1. Ship children off to a friend’s house for a few hours at least so you can rest.¬† Or, alternately, if you are lucky enough to be sick when schools are out, you might be able to hire a teenager to come over to babysit for you (or, if you are good enough, convince them to come for free for the mitzvah of chesed and bikur cholim!)

2. Have extra board/card/other games that the children do not usually get to play to create new excitement and keep them busy.

3. If you are not too awfully sick, and feel you need/want/can, teach the easy stuff to teach while sick.  Perhaps you can read a book out loud, or take turns reading.  Many times keeping a skeleton of a schedule can help keep a child on track for the day.

4. If the weather allows, make them go OUTSIDE!

5. Above all, ALLOW for a messy house.  Lower your expectation.  After all, they are just children.  Focus on what really is important.  Are they safe?  Are they fed?  Peanut butter sandwiches are fine multiple times a day, and so is cereal.  It is okay if occasionally they do not get all the proper food groups. Rest, and feel better.  You can clean the house when you are well.

As I am finishing this post, I think I can go back to bed.¬† It is 5:30 am and I think the Tylenol has kicked in enough for me to try to sleep.¬† Last week a few of the boys got sick, were in bed with fevers for a day or so, and then about back to normal.¬† As Day 3 comes along for me, I am struggling to come to terms that it takes longer to get better as we get older.¬† I am thankful for small things though – all the boys were angels yesterday, and I even had a few come up to me asking me if I needed anything (*love*), and even though Daddy was home sick (he’s never home sick, even when he is sick!) it was so nice to have his company.

I am hoping though that it will not be many more hours before I feel well enough to clean the cocoa-jam concoction that is on my floor from wonderful children who were wanting to make a surprise meal of skewers and fruit and um, cocoa and jam. ūüôā

Oh, and don’t forget to tell the children that you love them and thank them for any tiny amount of good that they did, that really does make a difference!

Knock, knock! I’m not here, go away!

It is almost 11pm and I should be sleeping.¬† However, I just came back from grocery shopping for the week.¬† This was the only time I was able to do it.¬† There are inches of mud piles all over the breezeway thanks to the wonderful emergence of Spring (B”H!)¬† My kitchen was not cleaned up from supper, I have a broken computer on the main table that we are trying to salvage all our information from via Ubuntu for it does not boot up otherwise (yes, I dropped it ever so nicely on the floor. Positive note – we bought the full coverage warranty that covers drops and as soon as I have about 30 minutes to talk to Dell I will, IY”H.)¬† Our basement bathroom has decided to take in water from the outside over the last year, and there is a nice pool of water on the floor now. Not to mention we are having family over starting tomorrow at about noon.¬† I don’t think I’m teaching tomorrow.

Last week, on the homeschool curriculum list that I am on, there was an email from a mother who admits she hides in the bathroom to eat ice cream.¬† In response, another mother wrote back and was in tears from laughing for she hides in the closet so that she can eat a whole chocolate bar all by herself.¬† There were many emails that came flooding in response to this one mother who hides in the bathroom to get a few moments of “self” time.

Life can be stressful at times.¬† This goes for everyone – even children – not just a homeschool parent. However, for a parent who is at home with their children all day, every day, and every night, it can be harder to deal with.¬† If the other parent is able to be home and help out a bit in the afternoons/evenings, that helps.¬† Some fathers are able to help teach their children a bit, others cannot for their work hours do not let them. We all need our “me” time.¬† It is hard sometimes for children to understand.¬† I had one boy who wanted to go out, just the two of us, and I had to tell him no.¬† Trying to explain that Mommy needs to go out by herself, and only herself, not with any other beautiful boy in tow, is hard.¬† It is not that we do not love them, and it is not that we do not want to be with them (hey, if that were the case, I would not be doing what I’m doing!) it is that sometimes we all need to rejuvenate and change things around so that we feel refreshed and are ready to get back into things.

In our house, the alarm goes off at 7am (sometimes earlier).¬† My husband and I get up.¬† Between getting my husband off to work with a shirt and lunch, making sure the boys are up and do their breakfast routine, school, lunch, piano teaching (my “other” job) and supper, I do not get a break until after 8:30/9 in the evening when the boys go to bed (aside from a few minutes at lunch.)¬† Finding “me” time is tough, which is why I requested to go shopping all by myself tonight – without even my husband, and which is why I only left after 9pm.¬† I don’t usually go that late, for I usually get to go shopping on the weekend, but it did not work out this week.

Anyways, I am going to put on my homeschooling hat and not feel guilty about what the plan will be for tomorrow.¬† It really helps to know that there are many parents who “hide-in-the-bathroom-to-eat-ice-cream” at times, (and yes, I have hidden in the bathroom, but I’m happy to say I don’t eat the ice cream!)¬† This is all normal.¬† This is life. I am hoping I can finish the kitchen in about 10 minutes, put the perishables in the fridge and then go to bed.¬† Tomorrow will be a day to learn life skills (aka house cleaning, hachnas orchim (providing for guests), laundry, etc.) and physical exercise (aka go outside and play in the sun so I can finish cleaning!) I just hope that they do not get too muddy tomorrow before noon so the house looks semi clean when our company arrives…but then again, that might be asking too much for 4 boys… ūüėČ

I’m including a link to an article that was sent this evening that shows a link between more outdoor play and better (and faster) sleep, (and when it is bedtime for the kids, any parent knows that the faster the child goes to sleep, the happier the exhausted parents are!)

Kids Sleep Better with Outdoor Time

‘Night!