Sunday, April 29, 2012

something to look forward to

Very exciting:

  • Frum homeschooling conference is in Baltimore this Sunday. I can't wait to meet others in the same boat and see how they swim. I am looking forward to getting some tips and ideas. I am also looking forward to the drive and (hopefully) to the arrival of a car fridge to make that drive more pleasant. Oh, and to a couple hours to kill in Washington on Friday. Which Smithsonian institution should we visit? 
  • We are organizing sun room as official homeschooling space. I made a shelf for the boys with all their books and notebooks. Each boy gets a half. Next step: a cubby-like area for pencils, glue, erasers and for ongoing projects. Finally, I will be moving in all art supplies in hope of corralling them into one area instead of three.
  • We are getting a drum set for 8 yo. He had very good practice today and has been consistently practicing, so time has come for a junior drum set.
  • 6 yo locked me and all three kids in the utility room this morning. At least my husband was around to hear our banging and to let us out. I am pretty sure the kid did it just to see what would happen if all of us are locked in that room. This takes me back to the time my 8 yo was 1 and locked a pregnant me in the basement. He was so little that he could not open the lock, so I was on one side of the door and he was on another. Luckily, I picked the lock with a screwdriver.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

the perfect boy

The perfect boy would wake up on his own, put his pajamas in the laundry and quickly get dressed in matching outfit showing all that he's a perfect boy.
The real boys sometimes have to be awaken and sometimes wake up the entire house much too early. They lounge in their pajamas, and, when they finally take them off, the pjs end up anywhere but in the designated areas. They need to be repeatedly nudged to get dressed, and their attire screams: I picked it out myself!

The perfect boy would get his bowl, spoon and cup and sit down at the table to a quiet nutritious breakfast, low in sugar and high in protein, vitamins, fiber and all those other brain-boosting things.
The real boys take multiple trips to get their breakfast items. They make poor food choices. They spill. They take too much. They sit with their legs on the chairs. They talk and talk and talk. They forget to make brachot. They do not want to bentch.

The perfect boy would immediately get his siddur, enthusiastically open to Mode Ani and daven with such kavana that anyone could take his picture and post it as the davener of the day. He would want to daven more and more.
The real boys do not want to daven. They much rather read/play/do nothing. They cannot find siddurim. They have to be pushed and prodded and encouraged with davening treats. They do not want to add to their davening. Their photos would belong in gymnastics catalog or marching band. They will fight over being a chazzan and then try to daven less.

The perfect boy woud know where all the school supplies are and would dive straight into his lessons. He would finish then promptly and neatly. Of course, there would be no mistakes. He would eagerly takcle unfamiliar material.
The real boys cannot find their pencils. Once they find them, thei drop them, roll them, lose them. They do not want to do things that are hard. They need to be reminded again and again and again to stay on task. They make mistakes and get frustrated. They vent their anger. They do not do their best. Sometimes they do not do good enough either. Heck, sometimes they do not do at all.

The perfect boy would be unfailingly polite, even-toned and mild-mannered.
The real boys are too busy with themselves to notice that manners are required.

The perfect boy would never make a mess.
The real boys do not notice the mess they make.

The perfect boy would never disappoint.
The real boys are constantly told how they disappoint. They do not measure up. They are too loud, too rude, too inattentive, too impulsive, too lazy.

The perfect boy would never dig in a sand box--he would not want to get sand all over his clothes. The perfect boy would read only at designated times, lest his parents have some other activity planned. The perfect boy sounds boring.

And the perfect boy sounds too much like a girl.

I have real boys. Instead of trying to make them perfect, I am trying to keep it real.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

overdoing it

I wish I could say today was better...

I went to work out at 6 am. I came out exhausted instead of energized.

I packed up everything the night before, planning to go to coop classes and then to the zoo which is in the same park as coop. Everything except the ipod which I use for music during story time. The ipod was in the car, so I sent kids out in the morning to get it so I could update playlist. It took three kids 15 minutes and minute instructions to find it.

Then we got to the classes. I led the toddler class, while the boys did Destruction and Fun with Numbers. 8 yo came out of his class with a Shmusophone, which he proudly wore around his neck and extracted interesting sounds from. 6 yo came with number kite which he took for a flight outside.

I spent the next class time cutting out bunny ears for next week's story time. Then the boys made sugar cube pyramids held together with frosting. They were convinced that it is not kosher, but I checked with the teacher and reassured them that they can eat it.

Then we went to the zoo and lunched there. I told boys the could have five sugar cubes off their pyramids. I printed out a page asking each one to find five kosher and not kosher animals and to write them down. Then, at home, we were supposed to look up their names in Hebrew. We started with pandas which were awake and sprawled on their backs, eating bamboo. I told boys to try to sit/lay in that position and eat.

Next was tigers/carnivores. 6yo got his head inside a giant skull. Then we walked to Komodo dragon, and 6 yo wrote it as his non kosher animal. He camped out next to the sign and copied it. We spent a while in the reptile house, and boys found lots of non kosher things there.

Then they complained that there are no kosher animals in the zoo till 6 yo remembered the giraffe. On the way we saw a duck, so that also made the kosher list. The giraffes were amazing, trying to eat leaves off the tall tree with their long purple tongues. That's where 8 yo's list got blown out of his hands and into giraffe's enclosure. He got very upset and I was hoping he would come up with some kind of solution.

Parakeet house was next. I was tired and thought that my whole idea of a list was a bad one. The boys, meanwhile, found some sticks with a few grains still stuck to them and tried getting parakeets to come and sit. There is a lot of patience required in waiting out a parakeet. I did not have it then, but boys persisted in holding their sticks and luring the birds.

Next, I walked the boys to the farm and the remembered that sheep and goats are kosher. 6 yo checked out the hooves and they both brushed them. 2 yo was very tired by this point. She is also afraid of goats, but this time, she asked to go in.

For the final activity, we did a train ride and a carousel ( our zoo has passport program where if you come very month for 6 months, you get the rest of year carousel and train for free).

By the time we got home, 2 yo was fast asleep, 6 yo was complaining about the song in the car and I was done. I asked the boys to help me bring in all the objects from the car. That's when 8 yo kicked a 6 yo and marched everyone home and declared pajama time. By the lack of complaints, I know it was a wise choice.

For dinner, we were supposed to have fish and chips. I told boys that if they peel the potatoes, I will fry them, otherwise, it will be something else. 6 yo started on peeling and promptly peeled his finger. 8 yo took over, but got distracted in the middle by a bug in the sun room. I figured that if he does not come back, the potatoes are just not happening. He returned after 10 minutes and finished those potatoes.

Right after dinner, I collapsed onto the couch.

Each part of the day was fine, but altogether, it was too much.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

April 24th

It's been a hectic couple of days here. Strawberry picking on Sunday, full day of schoolwork on Monday, followed by gymnastics followed by pizza, library today... I like my days full, but I am wondering whether they are overflowing.

Before Shabbos I did not get around to mopping the kitchen. It would not have been a big deal except that's the only day I mop the kitchen. But then I did not get to mopping it on Saturday night or on Sunday. On Monday morning, 2 yo spilled a full cup of milk. By lunchtime, 6 yo spilled his smoothie, so I was cornered in: after lunch I kicked the kids out of the kitchen and mopped. I also discovered snot on the bathroom floor, so that got mopped, too. Right before bedtime today, 2 yo spilled kefir, which ricocheted halfway across the kitchen. As I was spot-cleaning,  I saw a short summary of today's dinner on the floor: broccoli, lasagna, matzah crumbs from lunch...

I do not have cleaning help, but I am seriously considering getting someone. Maybe after our Israel trip ( my quip is that by NOT paying for cleaning we saved up enough for this trip).

 Another homeschooler runs a blogs called sustainable jewish schooling. I know that what I am doing right now is unsustainable.

Friday, April 20, 2012

April 20th

Today was a bit of unschooling and a bit of schooling.

The day started with me finally giving out new allowance amounts. I give a quarter per every year of age, so both boys ended up with new amounts. This meant new maaser. 8 yo figured out his quickly, and then they worked together with base ten blocks to figure out what's one tenth of $1.50. They did figure it out.

Then 8 yo built a couch cushion house for his sister and used Snap Circuits to light it up. Then we went to the chiropractor, and when we got back, we went on a manic cleaning spree. The living room needed it, but mostly, I was annoyed that one component of Snap Circuits was missing and nobody seemed to know where it went.

We had a discussion about how proper definitions. 8 yo said that everything in the world is our slave since it does not charge us anything to be seen. I explained that we have to define what a slave is. Then we talked about how a car could be considered our slave.

Then we did parsha, the only formal school for today. I found a powerpoint on kosher and non-kosher animals, and we went over it slowly. It had pesukim, so I got both boys to read some of them. Then I told them to make a poster divided into kosher and not kosher animals. We have a box of old magazines, so they had plenty of material. All three of them sat down, cutting.

In the afternoon, I cooked and cleaned and told boys to do whatever they felt like. They roamed the backyard, made a tepee. They fought over holding and not holding poles together at just the right angle. Each one came to complain separately, but then they joined forces. 6 yo pulled out weaving loom and worked on a potholder. They used cardboard to make a house for a toy lizard. 2 yo got out stamps and did that; then she pulled out dinosaur stickers. Both boys sneaked around to read.

I was asked what's the most dangerous thing in the world. I said, stupidity. 8 yo piped in, radioactivity. I said that being smart around radioactive material will keep you safe. Then there was a discussion of noble gases and how they are full of electrons.

6 yo sang Maccabeats. 8 yo hummed "Give me Freedom, Give me Fire".

The boys watered the plants. 6 yo caught a ladybug and brought it in to show me on his finger. He and 2 yo wandered in the yard.

If I could only get them to clean up messes which their creativity produces, I would call our situation idyllic.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

When life gives you lemons...

Striking a pose like the clay figure in the back
The day  started with 8 yo complaining that his stomach hurts and then throwing up. Of course, this had to happen on a day when coop was taking a field trip to the local museum to look at Ancient Egypt artifacts. However, afterwards, he totally rallied, ate quite a breakfast and was bouncing on the bed after completing Rosetta Stone. So we went to the museum.

There is a problem when your kids keeps arguing with the docent about the displays. I am used to that in science museums, but this is a first in a history/art setting. I wished he would talk less and listen more, but this is my bias. I was brought up with the attitude that an older person has more knowledge, so you shut up and listen. He has guts? ego? self-confidence to think otherwise and to express his opinions and knowledge.

I brought a baby carrier for the toddler, I learned my lesson from chasing an overtired kid in Museum of Natural History. Only I'm not sure whether I gained anything, as most of the time it was "Pick me up! Put me on your back! I want down! Carry me!" However, even she enjoyed looking at Greek statues and wondering where the heads and arms went. Then we entered Central America and there were pots with feet. There she also looked for missing heads. Bottom line, the boys enjoyed the trip and I got suckered into buying everyone a scarab in the gift shop, although I milked it, making 8 yo calculate how much money I spent on those three scarabs.
Watching tree cutting

On the 7 minute car ride back. the scarabs were relating their journey to each other in squeaky voices: "I'm glad to be out of that basket. This street looks familiar. Remember coming here on a truck?" I decided to make this into a creative writing assignment when we come home.

When we got home, the neighbors were having a tree cut down. There was a man, 30 feet up a tree with spikes on his boots and a chainsaw. They boys camped out in the backyard to watch. They even asked for picnic lunch, so that they would not miss any action.

I assumed that would be the end of schoolwork for today, but they came in when the tree people went for lunch.

8 yo did spelling. He filled in more dates on his timeline and marked off Egyptian epochs ( his idea). He did Lashon HaTorah and then we did Chumash. I talked it up into a mystery saying that he already dealt with the same story in Lech Lecha, and the end was the same, but the details were different. We did first four pesukim of perek Chav. He translated two pesukim without any help. We discussed that Avimelech got a nevuah but paroh didn't. However, what he was most interested in was the map of where Avraham traveled. His Chumash has one in the back. I found it interesting to see where Tzoar was: it is surrounded on one side by mountains and on the other side by the Dead Sea. No wonder Lot's daughters felt that there are no people left in the world.

6 yo wrote a short song about his scarab and did Lama without much drama.

In the afternoon, we picked up some friends, watered our plants. They kids played outside. Then everyone made pizza for dinner. Ice cream for dessert, then group benching. Even 2 yo can do the first paragraph now and she tries to say brachot before eating. Some drumming before baths, some element watching before bed. Book reading. Discovering that 8 yo threw up in bed instead of toilet this morning. Unexpected laundry.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

April 18th

Today is coop day, aka we don't do a lot of schoolwork day.

crystal tree
8 yo made a sink and a robot in Destruction, light saber is in progress. 6 yo did math with even/odd numbers. In experiments, one came home with crystal-growing tree and another with green hands and density bottle. Then in Egypt they made obelisks with symbols. 8 you explained how Egyptians thought that gods communicated with them through obelisks and he was not sure that we should be bringing them home. After all the Greek mythology, I'm surprised at his degree of sensitivity.

Since it had been raining and we felt quite done by lunchtime, I only wrote down a few things, just Judaics. 6 yo did Lama; it took him about 45 minutes to complete a bunch on sentences. He also melted down in science class when he was asked to write. At least today he just took his time instead of screaming.

We finished the perek with 8 yo. He made sure that we're doing it the "light" way, but he breezed through the pesukim. He understood some of them as he was reading them. He said that he didn't realize that Moav is our cousin. He also noted on the source of the name. And he also sent me to check what Rashi had to say about all of this. I think we are Rashi-ready here.

Then we made challah dough, with oats, wheat germ and whole wheat flour. I'm a bit worried that this time I outdid myself and nobody will eat it.

By this point the rain had stopped, so we went outside to plant. I have been composting and we just mixed it with store-bought soil and some sand. The plants we got came in biodegradable pots, so the boys took turns snipping off the plastic, ripping the pots into pieces and placing the seedlings into soil. The watering was probably the favorite part. We also planted some impatients, which led to jokes.

After we washed off the mud, the boys settled down with books. But then 8 yo got up on his own to practice drumming. We have an ongoing dialogue about how you need to practice hard things to become good at them, how practice takes time and how things look easy but are difficult to do. He has been a bit disillusioned, since he expected that as long as he has access to drums, he'll make up amazing tunes. I was hesitant myself, as I am not planning on pushing him to drum. However, I am quite happy that he decided to practice on his own. I  have seen quite an improvement since Sunday and I do hope that he'll get encouraged by his success.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

just call in the cops

In today's news I got an answer as to what happens when a kid throws a major tantrum in school. This is in Georgia. I am just saving myself a trip to police station and a school suspension. By the way, since that kid is suspended for losing her temper, guess what? She must be homeschooled for the rest of the year. See, I am just saving myself trouble.

Today, only one tantrum. I did not handle it beautifully, I ended up screaming back. So, basically, I tantrumed too.

We did all schoolwork today between the hours of 11 and 2. Both boys continued Rosetta Stone. 6 yo chose reading first, and read the whole reader to me. Then he did handwriting ( letter b), while I was doing spelling with 8 yo, who got all the words right today. So I sneakily told him to look up optional vocabulary words for science class. Then he chose math, which was 2 and 3 -D geometry. He did everything by himself, and followed with Out of Egypt story.

Meanwhile, 6 yo chose Lama and for today I agreed to write down the sentences if he reads them and tells me where they go. That went smoothly and then he read the next part of the story. Then we came to math. He wanted to do more train tracks like we did yesterday. I wanted to review place value. He puckered, but went ahead. Then we hit even/odd problem. He crumbled, saying he does not know which numbers are which. I tried giving him hints but he already decided it's too hard. Tantrum, major tantrum, kicking and screaming on the floor. The kind for which you get handcuffed. Maybe next time I should call police when I cannot control my child. ( Facetious, internet is bad at relating sarcasm).

I walked away and started making lunch for others. I told him he can join us when he finishes the page. His reflex is to grasp me and to yell. I said, I do not like to be hugged when I am not listened to. More yelling. After a while, I offered to show him how to do the first problem. His brother sneaked in even/odd answer. Slowly, creakily, he finished and came for lunch.

I served leftover plain noodles for lunch. My boys usually like them plain, not too hot, so that they can sprinkle cheese on top and it will not melt. Well, today first 8 yo asked for sauce on his noodles while watching his sister eat and then, later, 6 yo asked for sauce and melted cheese. One thing that is constant with kids: whichever routine you have, it will change.

After lunch, 6 yo breathed through ketiva and Rosetta Stone. I did more Chumash with 8 yo. I wrote a few al mi neemar and first he complained that there are no nekudot ( I was rushing) but then he answered them all. We got to the "juicy" part of Lot's daughters and we read the plan, the oldest coming and going and bullying the youngest into doing the same. Once he read the first pasuk, he exclaimed that she could not do that! I said that she thought they are the only people in the world. I asked him if he thought they will actually do it. He said, no. Then he noticed that extra nekuda and asked about it immediately. I told him that indicated that Lot did know what happened. Then I asked him if he thought the youngest was going to follow through. He said, no. I offered to read on to find out, but he demurred.

Considering how it went, I find it funny that I was so concerned about how I will teach this part to him. I guess I am comfortable now answering whatever question he would ask.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Manic Monday

Today was first back-to-school day after a long Pesach hiatus. But is was definitely not first day of learning, in fact, it might have hindered it some.

I got to the gym, which always seems to help start the day right. The boys ate breakfast and davened without too many complications. 8 yo decided to add Aleinu today, the whole thing. 6 yo added another bracha from Birchot haShachar. Then the oldest went to do Rosetta Stone and I did spelling with the younger one. He got discouraged to get some words wrong, but he also got some right. He traced them on the table and assembled them out of Bananagrams. Then we did handwriting, letter h lowercase. Then he chose writing. I asked him to write something about Pesach. First he dictated a sentence to me, I wrote it down and he wanted to copy it. Then he got stuck on my lowercase g, HWT just does a small curve on the bottom and I brought my loop up to the line. This involved kicking and screaming. I asked whether I should rewrite it with a curvy g, he said yes, then tantrumed some more. Finally he said that he will write, Thank G-d Hashem took us out of Egypt. He spelled it "thac g-d Hashem took us out ov" and then went to pull out a book about Egypt to see how to spell it. He also chose to end his sentence with an exclamation point.

Meanwhile, 8 yo did some math, it was calendar reading and then review of time/money. He was not putting in, as any answer that required more than filling in a bubble was not complete. I had to send him back to redo his work. Then he proceeded to Lashon Hatorah on his own and got it all right.

I was planning on doing more place value math with 6 yo, but his brother suggested building a train track and the train could advance one track for each math problem he solved correctly. 6 yo was thrilled, and I got him to review addition/subtraction till 20.

Then I did spelling with 8 yo and sent him to write his own Pesach story. He titled it Out of Egypt ( hm, plagiarism anyone?) He also just did token writing, very obviously not into it. What he was into today was making his Zen garden. We got this book out of the library called Living History and it takes a civilization and gives lots of projects on what life was like. For whichever reason he decided that he wants to make Zen garden. I told him to make a list of supplies. He wrote it up and checked off the ones we had. I had very little desire to shlep to another store, so I kept thinking that we will go in the afternoon, maybe later, maybe tomorrow... then I asked him whether he can find those supplies in our backyard. So he and 2 yo went out looking for moss and rocks. I gave him a bowl and soon enough, he came back with it full. Then he gathered everything else and spent some time building his Zen garden. After he made one, he made another one for 2 yo. Once 6 yo finished tantruming, they went to make another one, this one in a plate. Over the course of the day, I accumulated 4 Zen garden. I should be totally at peace now.

The final schoolwork for 8 yo toady was Chmuash. He was nervous, as we have not done Vayeira in months. However, he recalled exactly where we were in the story. I decided to finish the perek quickly, same way we did megillah, with him reading and then translating parts that he knew and me supplying unknown words. we did four pesukim and he asked classical Rashi on why Lot did was afraid to live in Tzoar, didn't he ask to go there?

6 yo discovered that we're almost done with Hebrew handwriting book, only one more letter ( ayin). However, there was one more hurdle: Yesh Lanu Lama. He had to match numbers and write their names in Hebrew. He knows all of them in Hebrew. But instead of writing, there was another tantrum. I felt like an overinflated balloon by this point. After 40 minutes of drama, he finally wrote them.

I was told that he would not tantrum like that for others. Well, he tantrums in gymnastics. I was told that he has to learn to suck it up and just do it. I was told that he would not tantrum like this in school. I think I would just be getting a whole lotta phone calls about his behavior. Or he would behave well in school and save up all anger and frustration for home.

Before gymnastics the boys watched a Nova documentary about elements, it was recommended by 8 yo's co-op teacher. Afterwards, 2 yo was walking around suggesting we make dynamite.

Why do I homeschool? Because, at the end of the day, I have a feeling that my kids will turn out all right. I did not have this feeling when 8 yo was in school. I think seeing the whole kid instead of a sliver helps in gaining perspective. Nobody marries a person saying: "I love you, but only if you stay away for 8 hours every day, otherwise, you are too much." That would be ridiculous! So I am discovering that it is easier to love the whole kid and not just the achieving/well-behaving part.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

random ramblings

A few snippets from these few days:

On Monday we went strawberry picking. After we were done, we had picnic lunch. At some point, 7 yo went to poke in the mud with a stick. 6 yo ( he's six today!) went to another picnic table to munch on his matzah in quiet. I was having a conversation with my sister about importance of being by yourself instead of a part of a group and how independent thinking can only be achieved this way. I was remarking how 7 yo did not ask to have playdates, see more friends, etc, but he spent a chunk of his time by himself. She was objecting, saying that my personality is more introverted than most ( it's true) and it would not work for everyone ( probably also true). As we were finishing this conversation, 6 yo suddenly says: "So, could Hashem multiply himself?" I'm pretty sure such questions do not arise from groupthink.

Later, as we started on our way back home, 7 yo said: "Everything in the world is made from something else, like tree comes from a seed." What a great opportunity to explain creation yesh meyesh as opposed to yesh meayin! Again, I'm sure that if he was playing with a bunch of kids previously instead of digging in the dirt, those thought would not develop.

Today, at breakfast, 7 yo asked a classic hagaddah question: why do we say that this year we are slaves, aren't we free? This led to a discussion of what is slavery and what is freedom.

This afternoon, the kid decided to sail cardboard boats in the bathtub. 7 yo made of his own design. Now, I can tell you a bit about buoyancy, etc, but it is one of rites of passage for a boy to design and test out his own boat. Nobody else will celebrate its triumph/failure, nobody will grade it, nobody will test it, but the lesson of making something with your own two hands and your brain will stick.

The homeschooling coop is planning a curriculum swap. This fills me with anxiety, especially being asked, now that I have a second grader, I must be using a curriculum. The truth is, I do not have a curriculum, and I'm questioning the need for curriculum till much older ages ( middle school? high school?). But I have a drive to get my kids to learn. And they have a drive to learn. Even if it involves digging in the dirt.

A friend of mine posted this:

She said it is especially for kids with special needs. I wonder if play deprivation creates kids with special needs.

As we were entering homeschooling coop today, my 6 yo grabbed onto two door handles and walked his feet up the door, till he was practically hanging upside down. No school would tolerate this behavior. I know that if he were in a traditional school, sooner or later someone would attach some kind of label to him. ADHD. Hyperactivity. Impulsiveness. Defiance. Immaturity. You think of one and slap it on. I know that by keeping him label-free, I get to see his other sides: generous heart. Overflowing gratitude. Kindness. Fairness. Intensity.

If I learn to look at my kids as just kids and not my ambassadors to the world, not test scores and brilliance and behavior issues, I will be able to relate to them as kids and not as problems.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

more unschooling

Today ended up being another unschooling day.

2 yo woke up at 6 with a fever and not a single other symptom. The boys got up and got dressed by 8. When I was placing various things in and out of storage area and they were looking for makkot animals, they pulled out an electric piano ( kid-sized). I hat that toy, they blast volume, hiss in the microphone, bang total cacophony. This time it went a bit differently. 7 yo immediately tried Twinkle Twinkle  and got it, with a few mistakes. I suggested Oh Susanna ( one of his favorites). I did not know the notes, so I Goggled it. Then I realized that he did not know how to read sheet music, so I printed out keyboard layout and explained the scale. Someone will pounce on me, as I do not know the proper terms for this in English and I forgot how to sigh-read myself, but I can figure it out, with enough time. He caught on, and I started him on writing the notes' names under each note. They are labeled on the piano, so once he knows that this one is D, he can play the right one. He told me to go and worked on it for a while.

I went back to finishing my breakfast and thinking: I was taught piano for 3 years. Some of those were definitely against my will. As you can see, I do not have a whole lot to show for those years. I know that there are 8 notes. So do my kids ( Shemona Tzlilim Yafim from Shalom Sesame Chanukah). I can tell you that they are of different duration and that this part is for the right hand an this part is for the left hand. And Oh Susanna is performed to the count of four. The end.

Somehow, I was able to teach all of this in a very short period of time. The student was willing, the timing was right, the info was easily available. No, he cannot play it yet, but now I have tools to teach him and he has info in order to play.

Then we davened and shlepped to farmer's market--Pesach is still coming and nobody will buy those veggies for me. 7 yo checked off our extensive shopping list. 5 yo read which countries the vegetables came from. Then they both stood and gawked at the pineapple cutting machine. Then they asked to look at the lobsters and crayfish. Then they noticed yellow-fin tuna being sliced, it is hard not to notice a monstrosity of that size. They watched fish getting descaled and filleted. I practically had to drag them away, as 2 yo was not doing well.

7 yo switched to Boxcar Children from Greek mythology, just like that. I have four of those books, from some library sale, and, all of a sudden, they are interesting.

I got 2 yo to nap and got a start on Pesach cooking. I got 7 yo to peel eggplant and carrots and both boys to run up and down the stairs with various ingredients. One of the pilot lights went out, so I got a match and showed boys how to relight it. I also showed what happens in the oven when you turn it on. They were fascinated, 5 yo thanked me. Then he played with manual egg beater and excitedly explained how it works, how the cranking turns the gears and then the beaters. 7 yo asked to make some dessert, so we made almond bars. He measured out brown sugar and chocolate chips, ground the nuts and mixed the batter. He made a joke that it's weird dough--weirdo. Then I asked him to peel some potatoes. He asked for a reward. I promised a nut bar. He peeled away.

5 yo ran upstairs to check on sleeping toddler and then set up to play with legos. 7 yo joined him and pulled down a map. He asked me, how could Avram be promised the land all the way to Euphrates, that's part of Syria? How could that land be ours? I said that in the time of Mashiach, it will be worked out. He then asked how that could be done without wars. All of his historical reading plus chumash reading is integrating.

Once the toddler woke up, there was more misery, she just wanted to be held and cuddled. Thankfully, now her fever has broken, and all three kids are playing in the sandbox.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Pesach Trivia Questions

I have been thinking quite a bit how to make our seder more interactive for the kids. I have a few ideas, but not sure how many of them I will be implementing and how many of them will go as planned.

I am planning to have a bunch of trivia questions to throw out there whenever the kids will seem bored.

Here is my list ( the last few with asnwers I found online). They skew to the younger side, since I want my 5 yr old to feel that they are "easy-peasy".

  1. What are the names of the holiday we are celebrating today?
  2. What are the ingredients used to make matzah?
  3. What are the names of the grains used to make matzah?
  4. What does shmura matzah mean?
  5. How long does one have before matzah dough becomes chametz?
  6. What are two reasons for eating matzah at the seder?
  7. When does one have mitzvah to eat matzah?
  8. How many days is Pesach?
  9. What happened on Pesach?
  10. In which country were Jewish people slaves?
  11. How long were they slaves?
  12. How many people went down to Egypt?
  13. How many people came up from Egypt?
  14. Who is not mentioned in the hagaddah, but you cannot tell story of Yetziat Mitzraim without him?
  15. How many steps are there at the seder?
  16. How many cups are there? Why?
  17. Which two korbanot were brought on Erev Pesach?
  18. How are we reminded of them?
  19. What tefila is said at night ONLY on seder night, but never during the year?
  20. What caused Par’o to let the Jews go?
  21. Name the makkos.
  22. Which makkah is the scariest? ( subjective)
  23. What is Shabbat HaGadol?
  24. What are you not allowed to do with chametz on Pesach?
  25. In which month do we celebrate Pesach?
  26. What did Jewish people do in Mitzrayim so that Hashem would skip their houses during the last makkah?
  27. Did Jewish people leave Miztraiym rich or poor?
  28.  Which “dessert” do we eat tonight?
  29. What is charoset?
  30. Name Moshe’s brother and sister.
  31. Why is Ha Lachma Ania in Aramaic?
  32. Who are the four sons?
  33. What does Dayeinu mean?
  34. When is the right time for the seder?
  35. Name the ingredients of Korech.
  36. Which tefila is split into two parts during seder?
  37. Which way do we recline?
  38. Name some halachot of korban Pesach.
  39. What kind of meat are we not allowed to eat during the seder?
  40. What happened to Mitzrim as they chased Bnei Yisrael?
  41. What is the last line in the hagaddah?
  42. Where do the pesukim for maggid come from?
  43. What happened in Bnei Brak?
  44. Find out what Ben Zoma taught.
  45. Who fasts right before Pesach and why?
  46. Who is the 5th cup for? (Eliyahu)
  47. What do we open right near the end of the seder (the door)
  48. What do we do while drinking the wine? (lean)
  49. Which way do we lean? (left)
  50. Why do we eat maror? (bc slavery was bitter)
  51. Name a vegetable u can use for karpas?
  52. What do we dip karpas in? (salt water)
  53. Why salt water? (tears of slaves, bitter)
  54. what did the jews do with the blood of the sheep b4 leaving Egypt? (put it on their doorposts)
  55. Name the 4 sons? (rasha, chacham, tam, she’eino yodea lisheol)
  56. Sing mah nishtana
  57. What do we eat with the matzah? (maror and charoset)
  58. Name something u can use for maror?
  59. How many times do we wash our hands during the seder? (2)
  60. How many seders do we have in chutz laaretz? (2)
  61. How many seders do Israelis have? (1)
  62. Name 3 things that are chametz?
  63. What are ways to get rid of chametz? (burn it, throw it out)
If you have any to add, please add! We will all benefit.

Monday, April 2, 2012

since we've been gone

Today ended up being first "regular" school day since our NY trip. The boys resisted, especially the oldest. As far as academics go, we went over hagaddah, reading parts out loud ( easy when you have been listening to Pesach songs AND looking over hagaddahs laying around, especially the comic one from NY). Both boys did Rosetta Stone.

5 yo did math, more place value through hundreds. 7 yo did telling time to a minute.

5 yo did handwriting both in English and Hebrew. He also asked for reading which was not on the list, so he read to me and I read to him. He was a bit worried about Llama, but I said that I would write half and he wrote the other half.

7 yo got stuck on spelling, he got "witch" wrong again, followed by "neighbor" and "eight". By that point, he was in tears, spelling is not his subject, he should be doing level A ( he's on D). Moreover, when I was telling how to spell words correctly, he wrote them wrong and then was frustrated to rewrite them. As a review, I asked him to type them on the computer and illustrate with clip art--that he really likes.

Then we got to math, which was about telling time to the minute. I got another earful how math is not his subject either, science is. I told him that if he puts in effort, that's what counts, not just what he naturally has talent in. I don't think he believed me.

Then he balked at Lashon HaTorah. I asked to do one page, he sat there, then asked to do half a page. Finally he did that.

At some point, he said that he wants to be uneducated, like Anglo-Saxons. I told him that those did not do so well. He said, that's because the Vikings got them, and they are not around any more, so he's safe. I tried hard not to smile, thinking how much knowledge is required to make all of those uneducated statements.

I have been toying with unschooling idea. I think my unschooling is more like very relaxed schooling, where kids can read a lot of whatever they choose, beg others to play educational games with them, listen to books on tape and ask the meaning of unfamiliar words, retell stories that they heard, make maps of empires, spontaneously sew afikomen bags, go to museums... in case you are wondering what we did for the past week's hiatus, this is what our learning has been like.

On the drive back from NY, 7 yo asked me why people in Israel say "Goal Yisrael" in Shemone Esre, aren't they not in galut any more? That led to a discussion of what is galut, why we are in galut, how do we get out of galut. These little spontaneous discussions cannot be coming from above, they have to come because the children want to know.