Author Archive

Third Annual Torah Home Education Conference

April 14, 2011 2 comments

Join us in Baltimore, MD on May 29, 2011 for the Third Annual Torah Home Education Conference!  We have another fantastic schedule planned to encourage, inspire, and educate you – whether you’re at the beginning of your search for information about homeschooling or a veteran homeschooler, you’ll find something here to interest you!

The conference will once again be held in the Park Heights JCC, in the conference rooms on the second floor –  5700 Park Heights Ave, Baltimore, MD 21215.  Check-in begins at 8:15 am, and the conference ends at 5 pm.   There is ample parking on site.  Lunch can be purchased at the Eden Cafe, a dairy restaurant on the first floor of the JCC that is has kashrus supervision from the Star-K of Baltimore.  (Please contact them directly with questions about their menu; a copy of the menu is available online.)   Special hotel pricing is available to conference attendees. A variety of Jewishly oriented curriculum will be available to view, and Jewish learning games and activities will be available to purchase.

The cost for this wonderful program is $50 per person, $90 per couple.  If you’d like to save some money (and who doesn’t? :)), take advantage of the discounted early registration prices by completing your registration by April 29; the discounted prices are $40 per individual, or $75 per couple.  After this date, the regular prices will apply. 

Registration and payment must be completed online.   Child care will be available and will be paid for separately; payment for child care must be made in full by May 20.  For questions about child care, please contact Alisa  at 410-963-2977 or after Pesach.

Below is a list of the speakers and topics (more will be added) – the schedule will be posted closer to the conference date:

– Homeschooling The Young Family – Mrs. Rebecca Masinter

 – ADHD: Who Says? and So What? A Discussion about ADHD as a diagnosis, and how it may impact our families. – Dr. Hadassah Aaronson

– Choosing to Homeschool: A second generation perspective – Mr. Isaiah Cox

– Nuts and Bolts of Homeschooling: Getting Started – Mrs. Ahuvah Feldman

– Facilitated discussion – topic to be announced

– The Elephant in the Room – Acknowledging and Dealing with Burnout – Mrs. Avivah Werner

– Homeschooled Teen Girls Share – panel discussion

– Homeschooling Your Teenager – Capturing the Opportunities and Handling the Technicalities – Mrs. Viva Hammer

–  The Virtual Jewish Homeschooling Community: Accessing the internet for learning, friendship, and support – Rabbi Yosef Resnick

– “Children in a Homeschool Environment: Socially Deprived OR Selectively Engaged?” – Dr. Hadassah Aaronson

To register, please visit, where you can complete your registration and payment.

(If you can’t attend, the presentations will be recorded and will be available for purchase after the conference in our digital store.  There are currently digital recordings available in the store from the last two years.  )

We look forward to greeting you at the conference!


Free online lesson plans

January 2, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m not a huge fan of canned curriculum or standardized lesson plans, but find that they can be helpful when used as tools to support your goals.  In that spirit, I thought I’d share the following link that includes free lesson plans for those who are interested.  This has plans for grades K through 12th.


Categories: Secular resources

Fun interactive map puzzles

November 30, 2010 Leave a comment

As you know, I’m a fan of learning that is engaging and fun, and this website has a lot of great map links.

This is the page that has the interactive map puzzles – lots of fun. 


Categories: Geography

Setting academic expectations in early years

November 29, 2010 Leave a comment

>>As a new homeschooler of young children, I am struggling with how to set the tone and expectation of “school time”.  As we travel down the homeschool road, I am having a difficult time teaching my oldest daughter (age 5) the expectation of when its time to learn. That is, what I expect from her when we sit down to learn etc.  How have you taught your children what is expected of them during “school time” and the like?

I understand that a little girl can’t sit for hours and learn. We don’t do anything like that. Rather, interspersed with her play, we have a few times a day that we learn together, be it parsha, Hebrew reading etc.  Some days, she is right on target and I have no issues. Other days, she just breaks down.  How much control should I let her have over “school time”? If she gives me signs that she doesn’t want to do it, do I let her have her way and let her take a pass or should I be in control of when she does “school work”?  What is appropriate for this age? How much should I worry about total accomplishment?<<


I take a very relaxed approach to homeschooling young children (and am pretty relaxed with the older kids, too) so that’s what you’re going to hear from me.  🙂  My strong feeling is to follow a child’s lead in what they are ready to learn, and to follow their cues as to what they want to do.  I really believe that a child (or adult) doesn’t truly learn anything unless they are interested and engaged, and want to learn.  We can make our kids of whatever age spit back facts of all sorts, but we can’t make them assimilate it.  And assimilation is where true learning is at.

A young child’s play is his learning.  There really isn’t anything that a five year old needs to learn that he can’t easily learn in his playtime.  If you want her to do something like parsha, then tell her stories – and you don’t have to be sitting side by side while you do this.  You can talk as she helps you in the kitchen, before bed, when you’re driving somewhere.  We found pasha story cassettes wonderful and used them a lot over the years. 
If she’s resisting even the casual introduction of a topic (for example, parsha), then I’m guessing that she’s picking up on your anxiety about what she’s learning or not learning and doesn’t want any of that pressure attached to the activities you do together.  Years ago, my oldest dd (then about 10) just couldn’t learn chumash with me; I realized that I was making her nervous, not by what I said, but because it was clear to her that I expected her to do more/better than she was.  So I totally backed off for over a year because I didn’t want learning Torah to become something she had negative associations with.   She came to enjoy learning, but it wasn’t because of me; it was because I left her alone long enough for her to want to learn it and for it to be meaningful to her. 
Think about what skills you really want your daughter to learn, and then figure out how to integrate it into games or her playtime.   Some parents find it helpful to learn to translate for the value of their childrens’ activities into ‘educationese’ to reassure themselves that even though it doesn’t resemble traditional classroom schooling, learning is going on!
When one of my boys was 5 years old, he expressed an interest in learning to read, but certainly wouldn’t have had any desire for phonics drills (and neither would I).  I decided to play with ABC cards with him, and he learned to sound out easy words after just a couple of times without any formal teaching at all. I only did this for maybe ten minutes each time because I wanedt it to be fun and low pressure.  The same thing with math – I played with manipulatives with him from time to time (I do this with my ds4 and ds3 now, too).  He wanted a math book so I gave him one but I didn’t attach any importance to him doing it.  I really didn’t mind if he never looked at it after the first time he used it (though he ended up zooming through the workbook), because I was confident that he’d learn math when he was ready for it.  And I also know how many concepts can be learned through hands on play, particularly if the parent is a good facilitator.
Don’t worry about total accomplishments, just watch how much she’s learning as she plays.  It might help to find out what kids actually are expected to learn in kindergarten – not how they learn – but what they learn.  Keeping in mind that kindergarten has become overkill and high pressure nowadays, and therefore not developmentally appropriate or healthy, I think you’ll see that if a child learns to count and the sounds of the letters, they’re on track and will have the foundational understanding to progress to reading and math.
Categories: FAQs

Jewish sound archive

October 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Here’s an interesting resource I recently learned about, the Jewish sound archives.

Among the materials that you can browse and search are:

  • Jewish humor in many languages
  • Yiddish folk songs
  • Yiddish theater
  • Ladino songs
  • Israeli folk songs
  • Chassidic nigunim
  • Cantorial performances
  • Religious services
  • Children’s holiday stories
  • Classical music by Jewish composers or performers
  • Historical Recordings
  • Radio shows and documentaries


Categories: Jewish Resources

Don't kill their curiosity!

October 7, 2010 4 comments

What is about adults that makes them so quick to say things that totally kill a child’s interest and motivation??

Today we had our second class at the homeschool co-op we’re signed up for this year.  The classes are taught by homeschooling parents, but there are a lot of ways to homeschool, and the classes reflect the approach of the teacher, obviously.

My ds told me last time he asked a question in one of his classes, and he was told, “What a good question!”  And then given the assignment as homework to look up the answer.  Right after he said this, dd14 exclaimed, “I know!  Someone in my class asked a question last time and was told to find out the answer and do a report to the class on it.  I’m not asking any questions!!”

You would think homeschooling parents would know better than to fall into this trap, wouldn’t you?  After all, isn’t it pretty obvious that no child is going to want to ask for more information if they’re given lots of work as a reward for their curiosity?

It reminds me of when a child asks how to spell something, and they’re told to go look it up.  (I’ve been guilty of that.  :))  In the real world, if someone wants to know how to spell something, they ask the people around them, and look it up on their own only as a last resort.  So why not directly answer the child asking so they can learn the proper spelling and go ahead and use it for whatever purpose they had in mind?

It’s when we don’t trust the natural desire of a child to learn and seek mastery that we feel we have to jump on every possibly educational opportunity and force the learning down their throats.

Less is more!


Categories: home education

My homeschool goals

October 6, 2010 3 comments

I just came across something I wrote back in May 2005 about my homeschooling goals in response to a question of “what keeps you motivated; what are your goals & philosophies?”  It was it was really interesting to read over five years later; I was surprised to see how similar what I wrote then was to what I would write now.  So I thought I’d share it here with you.

“My philosophy could be summarized as follows:  no one knows, loves, understands, and cares about my children and their successful development the way that I do.  I want to be directly involved in their lives, and want us all to share significant experiences as a family.  I want learning to be a lifelong pursuit that is filled with joy, and feel that it can be when children are treated as the individuals that they are, and taught when their minds are developmentally ready for the material presented.
I’m not sure if you are asking about academic goals or what I consider the more important substantive goals.
  1. Firstly, for me, would be helping them build good character, including a strong internal moral compass and the willingness to do what is right( even when it isn’t popular), kindness, and respect for others;
  2. a healthy sense of self-worth and value, to be responsible members of family and society, to be hard working, responsible, independent and able to be interdependent;
  3. to be able to think critically, have strong basic academic skills (which for me means, fluency in reading, writing, math, and the ability to navigate Torah texts) which are precursors to more advanced learning;
  4. to have strong bonds with their parents and siblings, to imbue them with a strong sense of our values as pertains to Torah philosophy and behavior, and to have the interpersonal skills necessary to form healthy relationships as adults which result in a healthy marriage and family;
There are many more things I could write, but I think most of them would fall somewhere into the above goals.  For example, they have time to develop their interests and have more relaxed and balanced lives. They avoid a bunch of negatives, such as peer dependency from a young age, unhealthy competition, etc.  They learn to navigate the world more effectively from a young age (eg, managing money and interacting with people of different ages).
I don’t think it is necessary to be able to pin down exactly what your reasons and goals are, just to have a strong feeling for what they are.  As your kids get older, your goals will become more specific.  So much of why we do what we do comes from an instinctive sense of what is right, that it often can’t easily be defined.
I formed my goals based on who I am, what is important to me and feel will be important skills for my children in the future, and by doing lots and lots of reading and thinking.  I read many things I disagreed with, but forced myself to think through why I disagreed with those positions.  Many, many, many hours of thought have gone into my philosophy as it developed, and into the specific decisions I have made as a result.  I have adapted along the way, finding that what I sometimes thought the best way to do things changed depending on my children’s personalities and their ages.
As far as staying motivated, I personally haven’t found that a challenge.  When you continually see your goals being achieved, and there so many validations of your approach (both internal and external), there is nothing more motivating than that.  I love who I see my children becoming, and am incredibly grateful for the quality of life we have.  I am far from perfect, but am raising kids who are better than those I ever could have raised if they were in school for most of their waking hours.  I love seeing how they don’t make distinctions between learning and fun; for example, doing mind benders (deductive reasoning exercises) for fun late at night, begging me to read more of our historical read aloud, doing lots of lessons at a time in math or grammar, just because they enjoy it.  I appreciate having a positive, stimulating, and loving home environment. And I really, really love having a very strong relationship with them, which gets us through many situations that I don’t know how parents navigate without that relationship.
Categories: Goals, home education