Archive for the ‘Extracurricular’ Category

Expressive arts camp for girls

August 2, 2010 3 comments

We had a super early morning today!  Last night dh and I talked about wanting to take the family to Gettysburg today, then at ds8’s violin recital we found out about the possible camp option for dd that began just yesterday, and then we got home at 10 pm to start putting our plans in place for this morning. Whew!

I originally thought I’d take dd14 early in the morning to sign her up for camp, then head back home to pick up everyone else, and then we’d all head to Gettysburg.  But then I realized that her camp in a half hour away, on the way to Gettysburg – so it didn’t make sense to spend an extra 1.5 hours driving if we could avoid that by all being ready early enough to take dd and go directly to Gettysburg from there.  So that’s what we did.

We packed milk and instant oatmeal for the kids to have for breakfast once we got to the camp – there was boiling water available and they ate while I made arrangements with the camp director.  We talked about different options to finance camp, and though they offered to let me pay half the fee for the overnight option over time, I wasn’t comfortable going into debt for a luxury.  Instead, we decided to send dd for the day option, which cuts the cost by 50% and gives her almost every aspect of camp except for pillow fights after lights out, lol!  Dd has agreed to pay for part of the cost herself, something we’ve asked our oldest two children to do in the past – I think it shows a lot when something is important enough to a child that they’ll pay a significant amount of money towards it.  It also helps them appreciate the experience more.

There there are five other families who are doing the same thing so an evening carpool is already in place for a couple of evenings (some have a big enough vehicle to accommodate an additional person, some don’t).  The voice teacher has a large van and takes girls in with her in the morning (since she teaches first thing in the morning), so I only have to get dd to her house by 8:10 am.   So the driving is mostly taken care of – isn’t that incredible?!  The girls get there in time for breakfast and get picked up around 9:30 or 10 pm.  A very full day for her, and it will still allow us to see dd every evening and morning.

Dd came home really, really excited about the camp.  Her current experience is already different in every way from her past experience at a residential camp (the same one that dd15 loves, but they have very different feelings about it).   This program is called Tizmoret Shoshana, an expressive arts camp for Orthodox girls.  There are girls from different parts of the country who are attending, in addition to the large local contingent, but it’s not a large camp – under 40 girls total.

Dd likes drama and dance, both things that she doesn’t currently have much opportunity to develop (she can’t participate in school based activities since she’s not in school, and though there are homeschool activities that are available to the general community, they aren’t suitable for her for religious reasons), so this is a wonderful opportunity for her.  She’s chosen drama as her major, art for her minor, and there is daily dance for girls in all tracks.  I think she also said something about being in a choir. That’s in addition to a daily Torah lecture, outdoor activity, and evening speaker or activity.

Some of the things she likes about the camp, in addition to the wonderful activities: she really appreciates the flexible schedule that allows for personal freedom and decision making.  I give my kids a good amount of autonomy, and it was hard for dd in the past to be told she couldn’t do anything or go anywhere within the camp grounds without express permission (eg to visit her older sister at a bunk five minutes away during free time), or to be highly controlled by others (eg being directed during clean up time to clean up the mess of the other girls after she tidied her own things in just a few minutes – she quickly learned that responsibility was punished and laziness rewarded).  She’s highly organized and responsible, and appreciates being treated like a person capable of good decisions, and therefore dislikes micromanagement.  There isn’t an insistence on girls participating in activities regardless of interest (something that is typical of most camps – dd hated being told she had to play a certain sport when she didn’t enjoy it and would rather sit and watch), which she very much appreciated – even though she wanted to participate in all the activities!  I think this kind of atmosphere is particularly well suited to home educated children, who are used to managing their own time appropriately.  Dd commented that the girls all seem very happy to be there and highly motivated so they get a lot done.

She said the girls were very friendly, the counselors were warm, the activities were fun, and the food was great! (The camp is hosted at a retreat center, and the food is hotel quality – I was almost drooling when I saw what they had for breakfast! Not your typical camp fare at all!)

Though it’s not related to camp, I’ll share a fun side note about our day after we dropped dd at camp.  While we were at the visitor center at Gettysburg (we were there for several hours), we saw two other Orthodox families there.  And we suprisingly enough knew both of them!  One hosted us for Friday night dinner in Israel the night before my oldest was born – so it’s been 17 years since I saw them (actually, she was visiting a friend who had a baby at the same hospital/time I had my third, so I saw her for five minutes 14 years ago).  They now live in GA and were traveling through the area – they were only at the visitor center for a very short while and if we hadn’t ‘happened’ to walk in right after one another we would have missed each other completely.  (Seeing this family was a very strange experience for me since I met them as a very young couple with two young daughters; I still mentally have that picture of them.  But now the child who was then four is a mother herself and this couple have become grandparents – kind of unsettling to have people age a generation in time within a couple of minutes of meeting them again.)

The second family looked familiar but I couldn’t place them at first – turns out we met them a couple of months ago at the day long screening in NYC for the Elite Academy program!  They live in NY but were in the area because they brought one of their daughters this morning to this same camp that we are sending dd14 to – it’s amazing what a small world it is!

Discovering this camp at just the right time for dd  is to me is one more reminder that I don’t have to rely on myself to know everything and be everything for my children. There is Someone else looking after them and making sure they get what they need, sometimes in spite of their parents! (I had heard of this camp but because of the expense, never even considered considering it. :))   It’s a wonderful, warm, and supportive environment for girls who have a talent they want to develop in the expressive arts;  I’m so delighted and grateful to have discovered it at just the right time for dd!



Violin recital for ds

August 1, 2010 2 comments

Tonight my ds8 had his first recital, playing the violin!  Five of our children take music lessons, but ds8 is the only one to play violin.  (All the others play piano.)  It’s nice for him as the youngest of the first six to have something that he’s good at that no one else knows how to do.  That’s not an easy thing to do in a family with five older siblings who are so competent, and I’m delighted he’s had this opportunity.

It was really a lovely evening.  The recital was for all of the students of this teacher, and there were a number of different levels represented. They mixed up the levels, so that there would be someone more advanced followed by someone who was a total beginner, which I thought was really nice.  It made it more interesting to listen to, and everyone was appreciated for whatever level they were on.

Ds played together with two classmates four renditions of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  Each rendition was using a different rhythm, and the three of them did beautifully.  They all stayed together throughout each of the four pieces and did a really great job.

The recital took place in the evening at a retreat center about thirty minutes away, since the teacher is also teaching at an arts camp for girls that began just today at that same location.  It was a beautiful location, and seeing the camp that just began today which was located there gave dh the idea that it would be good for dd14.  (Did I mention she just had a birthday?  Well, she did. 🙂  And spontaneous me decided to speak to the director about the possibility of her joining the camp – gulp – first thing in the morning.

Though the director agreed it was a possibility, the price is way over our heads, so I didn’t leave on a definite note with her – just said dh and I have to talk about it together.  And at the point that I was having the conversation with the director at 9 pm, dd had no idea that dh and I were thinking about anything, and even dh didn’t know I was having the conversation.  He mentioned that he thought she’d like it, I had to go to the restroom before leaving, and between getting back to where everyone else was, I had this conversation with the director. 🙂  It was all very spontaneous.  So we all needed to talk and think about it.

When we got back home at 10 pm, I called to discuss pricing and make a concrete reservation for dd to attend.  But I couldn’t get the director on the phone.  So because I think this could be a wonderful opportunity for dd14, and because the director already said technically she was fine with accepting someone a day after the program began, here’s my plan.  I’m going to take dd there at 8 am – with her packed suitcase in tow (she and dd15 stayed up late to get her ready), and talk to the director again.  There are two options; one is residential, and one is the day option.  The day option is half the price of the residential option, and the girls are there from 8 am – 10 pm – so they don’t miss any activities, just sleeping there.  I’d have to drop her off and pick her up every day, which would be two hours of driving for me daily (unless I found other parents to carpool with).  Dd would strongly prefer to stay overnight, and I understand why – it’s a different kind of experience.  But I don’t know if that will be financially feasible.  If it works out, then I’ll leave her there with her suitcase.  If not, I’ll take her suitcase back home with me and come back for her at night.  Either way she’ll be there in time to eat breakfast with everyone!

Sometimes I wonder how a person like me who likes to have things organized in advance ends up with big projects like this that end up needing to be done at the last minute!  Tonight I was pondering if I’m really the organized person I think I am or not, and realized that it’s not an issue of organization as much as a willingness to be spontaneous.   As someone who likes to have things worked out ahead of time, my natural mode of doing things isn’t to wait until the last minute and then be harried, but sometimes opportunities come up when it’s not convenient for you, and you have to push to be able to access those opportunities.  I don’t know if most parents would be willing to deal with having an hour or two to get their child ready for two weeks of camp or not, but because I think it would be very special for dd, it’s worth it to make the effort and overcome my natural preference for how things are done.

To sum up, it was a lovely recital, and it opened the door to a possible interesting opportunity for dd. I’ll let you know tomorrow what ends up happening!


Categories: Extracurricular

A play and free ices

March 20, 2009 4 comments

I just got home from taking the kids to a musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat.  We did a lot of the preparations for Shabbos yesterday afternoon so we could enjoy going out on a Friday morning without rushing or being worried there wouldn’t be time to do all that needs to be done when we got back. 

The performance was excellent – very well done and very fun.  Though it’s generally based on the classic Biblical story of Joseph, I told my kids to watch it as if it had nothing to do with that and was just about a person named Joseph and things that happened to him.  Otherwise, they would be bothered by inconsistencies or things that didn’t seem appropriate.  

Since it was the dress rehearsal, we were able to enjoy it without having to pay the $10 per person fee that will be charged tonight (there was a basket for voluntary donations).  We’ve had similar opportunities in the past to attend wonderful performances of all sorts for free or for a token cost because we attended the dress rehearsals.  It’s only because the kids are homeschooled that we can take advantage of these showings, since most kids are in school during the day. 

My ds15 stayed home, as did ds18 months, so I just took six kids with me.  The days of everyone being young enough to go to one performance are for the most part over – because of the singing by females in a number of them, ds doesn’t go to things like this with us.  Fortunately he doesn’t feel bothered to be missing it.  And it made it easier for me that he did stay home, since I didn’t have to take a child too young to sit still for more than five minutes. 

The almost three year old did great, though it was a long time for him to sit, so he wanted to go out about fifteen or twenty minutes before the end.  I went into the hallway with him and joined the other two or three mothers with toddlers.  🙂  Fortunately, the door was open so I was able to still view the performance.  And afterwards I bumped into a couple of homeschooling moms I haven’t seen for 2.5 years when we met at a planetarium show I took the kids to, which was nice.

Afterwards, I took the kids to get ices from Rita’s.  Today is the first day of spring, and every year, Rita’s has complimentary ices on this day.  (If you’re seeing this today, check their website to find the location closest to you, and you might be able to still take advantage of this if you have the desire and can find the time.)   Since we got there at 1 pm, there was virtually no line (when we went two years ago, it was after school hours so the line was huge and we waited for over a half hour); I hardly had time to park the van before the kids were ready to load up again!   Dd14 got an ices for ds15 to enjoy, since he wasn’t with us.  He would have been more sorry to miss that the performance. 🙂   A tip from my kids – the fruit flavors are much better than the flavors that imitate cake or candy.

Even though I’ve already shared with you that I try to make a cleaning schedule that is relaxed for everyone, at this time of year, I make more of an effort to do fun activities outside of the house.  I want pre-Pesach to be a time of enjoyment, and things like this help add a nice balance to our schedules.


Piano recital

February 22, 2009 Leave a comment

This afternoon we attended the first piano recital for any of our kids.  Three of our children are taking lessons from a talented neighbor – dd14, dd12, ds10.  Their teacher has a wonderful baby grand piano, and she has given the kids permission to come into her home any time during the day and practice.  Since that’s what they do, I don’t have much of an opportunity to hear them play, except for the occasional times they use our electronic keyboard. 

So today it was really nice to hear all of them.  Each of them played three solo pieces, and then two duets.  I especially enjoyed the duets – all three of them played a piece together with one another, and I loved seeing the teamwork involved in playing together. 

There was one other student who participated, and it was especially interesting to watch her interact with her parents, who are both deaf.  A friend of the mother brought some special electronic equipment, and during the intermission I asked about it.  She explained to me that it was something that could be hooked up to the piano, and amplified the music so that it could be connected to the parents’ hearing aids, making it possible for her parents to hear her play somewhat.  Isn’t that a wonderful benefit of technology?

All of our parents were able to come, which was very nice for everyone.  The grandparents were all very happy they were able to make it, and even brought bouquets for each of the kids!  I’m so grateful the kids have this opportunity – as I’ve said before, music lessons aren’t necessities, but they are benefitting so much from them.


The Nutcracker

December 13, 2008 Leave a comment

Tonight I took my three daughters (8, 12, 14) out to see a performance of the Nutcracker.  I’ve taken them three times in the past, but it’s been almost three years since I took them.  In the past, I took them to the same performance, year after year, so when this opportunity came up, I decided it would be nice to go to something similar but different.  We had to rush out after Shabbos, but managed to get there basically in time to meet the group we were going with (we got a school rate for the tickets by joining together with other homeschoolers, so each ticket was $5 instead of $15.)

We’ve been to this theater a couple of other times for other dance productions, and this time decided to see what it was like sitting in the balcony.  I think the seats are good wherever in the theater you sit, but this was a different vantage point that we enjoyed.  Tonight’s ballet was performed by a different dance company than the one we watched in the past, and I was really surprised by what a huge difference it makes in how the scenes are organized.  I kind of assumed that the story and music are basically the same, so how much different could it be?  I was sooo wrong.  Because I’ve seen the other dance company perform it three times, I kept expecting certain scenes at certain times, and it wasn’t happening!  It was fascinating to see how differently the music was interpreted and what very different scenes were conceived based on the same basic story outline.  Coming home, we were listening to an instrumental piece on the radio, and I suggested my girls imagine making up a story and then a dance to go with that music, matching the movements and actions to the music, and then think how much more was involved in such a large scale production.  It made them even more appreciative of the talent and hard work that went into it.

I couldn’t help comparing the two productions, and though this was supposedly on a higher level, and definitely had a tremendous amount of talent, we all agreed that we preferred the performances we’ve seen in the past.  I don’t know if that’s fair to this dance company, because that one is familiar and is the standard that everything else is held up to, but even though we all know it may be unfair to say we like that one better, we do.  🙂  It was a nice girls night out for us all.

Have you ever heard the music for The Nutcracker, by Tchaikovsky?  I enjoy classical music, even though I’m not very knowledgeable about it, and I especially enjoy when a piece I recognize comes on (there aren’t many of those!).  When the Nutcracker comes on the classical radio station, it’s a special treat.  My kids also recognize it right away, and will describe what scene the music goes to.  Six years ago, before I first took the kids to see it performed, we borrowed the music recording from the library and listened to it repeatedly, and we also checked out books on the plot.  That was very helpful in preparing all of us to appreciate the performance.

Two weeks ago, three of my older kids were asked to be ushers for a classical concert that was a local fundraiser, and were able to stay for the entire performance for free because they volunteered.  They enjoyed it, but they found it hard to sit for so long and listen to music being played without hearing any lyrics, even while appreciating the amazing talent of the pianist.  A couple of those kids at the end of November went to a dress rehearsal of our city’s symphony orchestra (a special opportunity for school groups), so this rounds out some of the high level music appreciation opportunities they’ve had recently and is simultaneously expanding their familiarity with classical music. 


Drama opportunity

August 20, 2008 Leave a comment

Tonight my almost 12 year old daughter was in a play.  What kind of  play?

This was a pretty much last minute opportunity for her.  There is a small local drama camp that has a three week program.  We got a call on Sunday from a mother of one of the girls in the program, asking if my daughter was willing to stand in for her daughter.  They were going away for a few days, and her daughter’s absence would badly affect the play. 

So the last three nights my daughter has been doing rehearsals, trying to cram in her lines and get the timing down. Tonight was the performance.  It was a minor performance, not in front of huge crowds – just the families of the girls in the play.   She did great, and no one would have guessed that she had so little time to prepare.  She also enjoyed the fun of participating, as well as the comaraderie with the other girls.  She already knew several of them, and a small group activity like this is be a nice way for them to get to know one another better.

I’m glad she had this opportunity.  She enjoys drama, but it’s something that I can’t easily provide for her at home, and I’ve chosen not to get her involved in with the larger homeschool community.  She participated last month in a play at her sleep away  camp and really enjoyed it.  Now she was sent this chance to enjoy the benefits of a drama camp, not only without having to pay to attend, but with the strong appreciation from all involved for her agreeing to help them all out! 


Beginning piano lessons

August 17, 2008 2 comments

Today two of my kids began piano lessons.  I think music lessons are very valuable, but they’re so expensive.  Especially when you have more than one child in lessons, it adds up fast.

A couple of years ago I started my oldest two kids in piano lessons, and simultaneously began my then 7 year old with tin whistle lessons.  Even though I found very good people who were charging low rates, it was adding up fast. I think that our schedules had a long interruption for Pesach (Passover), and somehow, we never got back on track.  Not because I didn’t think it was worth the money, but because money was tight and it was easier to push it off.  So until now, music lessons have remained in the ‘nice but not crucial’ zone.

A month ago, I bumped into a neighbor I rarely see (as she puts it, she’s chained to her desk at work) who told me that they just bought a new baby grand piano.  It was a major purchase, one they were thrilled about as she and her husband are both passionate about classical music.  She then asked if any of my kids took music lessons, and if they’d be interested.  I often get asked if my kids take lessons of some sort, almost always followed by the person then asking if I’d be interested in signing them up for xyz. 

So I told her what I told you, that they’d started, but it got pricey, and as much as I would have liked to continue, it didn’t work out.  Then she said, “The reason I’m asking is I was wondering if you have any children who would be interested in piano lessons.  Now that we have this new piano, I really want to share it with others.  I’m not a trained piano teacher, but I’ve played for years and love music, and would love to teach them for free if they’d be interested.” 

Well.  Wasn’t that incredibly generous?  I told her that I’m sure more than one child would be interested, and we agreed to be in touch to set up something definite.  But when I called her she wasn’t in, and we played some phone tag.  Two of the three children who were interested went to camp, life was busy, a month passed – and we still hadn’t connected.  Then we bumped into each other at one of the weddings on Tuesday night.  (I always find it ironic when I see neighbors at public events who live just a few doors away from me that we see more of each other there than we do at home.)

The nine and almost 12 year olds each had a lesson first thing this morning, one after another, and enjoyed it very much.  The keyboard that has been on a shelf for over a year came back out today and has been used all day long.  The 13 year old is scheduled to go over on Tuesday night. 

There are a couple of other great things about this arrangement, besides the price and the very pleasant woman who made the offer.  🙂  One is that she’s so close that my kids can easily walk – it will take them about two minutes, if they aren’t going too fast.  🙂  I’ve found that having kids in extracurricular activities outside the home can eat up a lot of a mother’s time, driving back and forth to get everyone where they need to go, and I’m very grateful that they can enjoy this opportunity without me needing to add more driving to my weekly schedule.

The other is, she said that since she works all day, no one is home, and if the kids want to practice on her piano when she’s gone, they’re welcome to.  We did buy an electric keyboard when the oldest two started lessons, but practicing on a real piano would definitely be better.

Another thing I especially like is that she’s not a trained teacher.  I think that the best person to teach something is someone who really loves what they do, and she truly loves classical music and the piano.  Being around someone who has a healthy passion for something is so valuable for kids to see.