Beach trip and more

September 15, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve had a few lovely and busy days!

On Monday we had a trip to the beach.  I planned this for May for our homeschooling group but the weather didn’t cooperate so I had to cancel.  I rescheduled it for this week to take advantage of the off season rates while the weather was still warm, and this time the weather was perfect – it was a beautiful day and I enjoyed it so much!  We had five families there with less than 25 kids, so it was a nice group but not huge.  We had the beach to ourselves and I found it soooo relaxing – the sun, the water, the wind – ahhh.  Perfect for kids and adults after the inside energy of a three day holiday.  I was feeling a little uptight when we left the house at the thought of all I had to do this week, and within a few minutes of getting there that had just disappeared.  And as a beautiful bonus, I was able to do tashlich while there, which to quote another mother “totally elevated” the beach outing.

Then on Tuesday we left the house early in the morning for the first history class of the year.  It’s an hour away (without traffic) and I was a little apprehensive about how much longer it would take with traffic, since the highway I take gets majorly backed up right around where I’d be. But we seemed to pretty much miss most of the traffic.  Ds8, dd9, ds11, and dd14 went to the class while I took the littles to the library.  Once there we participated in two different story hours, which helped pass the time (the history class is 2.5 hours).

Just as we were leaving, the librarian gave me coupons for free donuts at Dunkin Donuts.  She said that they were sent as a prize for the summer reading club but they were significantly delayed and only arrived that day, and they were only valid until the next day.  When she explained  she was giving them out because she didn’t want them to go to waste, I asked if I could have coupons for the older four kids; she said dd14 would be too old for the reading club and they only wanted to give to kids who would technically be old enough, so she very generously gave us 6 total.

Then we headed back to pick up the other kids, and spent about forty minutes talking with the historian.  He offers a writing option for kids who are interested, and dd14 discussed this with him.  She is excited about doing this, as she really wants to improve her writing skills, and it’s very apparent that this will be challenging – “the goal of the program is to improve the student’s ability to write substantive, coherent, and precise historical papers. Depending on the student’s initial capabilities, this may include short, medium, and long papers that are informative, analytical, and thesis-based. ” He stresses that each student work to his own ability, strive to improve, and that there’s no competition between any of the students.

While we were driving to the next place, the kids were all talking about how interesting the class was and sharing lots of information they learned.  I’m looking forward to sitting in on the class next week – I don’t know how he simultaneously kept my 8 year old and high schooler interested for 2.5 hours, with only a five minute break!  It seems almost inaccurate to call it a class since that conjures up mental images of forced boredom and note taking, and this was all about engaged learning.   He told the kids that if they need to walk out, just to leave, not to worry about asking permission, very different from school-type rules.  He treats them like they want to be there, and they do!  It’s very gratifying for me that the kids enjoyed this so much – though I expected that they would and I signed them up because I felt it would be a fantastic learning experience, I can’t say they were initially very enthusiastic about it.  Not at all.  So it’s really nice that they now share my positivity about it and look forward to future classes, rather than feeling like I was dragging them to something they’d find boring and hard to sit through.

From there we were only 20 minutes from my dh’s workplace, but since it was too early to pick him up, I took the kids to a fantastic park just a few minutes from him.  I’d never been there and the kids really liked it – it was huge and had lots of different play structures – they felt we didn’t stay long enough to explore them much so I told them we’ll go back soon.  Then we picked up dh from work, stopped at the library on the way home to pick up some books I had on hold, and the kids piled out to look for books.  Dd14 and ds11 both wanted to get books that were mentioned in passing in their history class, Robinson Crusoe and Treasure Island.

Close to our home there is a kosher Dunkin Donuts and we stopped there for a free treat before finally heading home for dinner – the six coupons were perfect since the oldest five kids each got one and the littlest two shared one.  It was a very busy day and it was the substantial planning I did the night before that made it a day that everyone (including me!) enjoyed from start to finish.  (Yes, I’m patting my own back but it was a lot of work and it’s good to acknowledge when your efforts make a difference – and you can’t always wait for others to tell you how valuable what you did was!)

Then this morning we had another fairly early start.  We headed to PA for some shopping with the littles in tow (the last few times they’ve stayed with their grandparents for the day, which they all enjoy, but my inlaws aren’t around for a couple of weeks so that wasn’t an option).  I made sure to leave time at each stop for the littles to run around and play – they especially enjoyed the farm where we bought our eggs.  They went down to the pond to watch the geese, played with the 11 week old puppy, went to the barn to see the turkeys (dd9 tried to catch and hold one – she managed to almost get a hold on it before it escaped – she is really good with animals, which is probably obvious since turkeys are kind of intimidating to think of holding :lol:), and then looked at the thirty cows they bought since our last visit.   Our stop to buy eggs took 45 minutes because of all of this!

Ds16months is an easy going little boy but has always had a very hard time with car travel, which was my initial incentive to ask my mother-in-law if she could babysit him when I do my monthly shopping, which involves hours of driving  But today he did great – enjoyed his awake time, slept, and in each directions woke up and started to cry just a few minutes from our destination. And remarkably we accomplished everything I set out to do and were home by 5 pm, which is amazing!  I was even able to be in time for my public speaking group a couple of hours later, something I wasn’t confident would be doable.

Tomorrow we have another full day planned, since our first co-op classes begin.  That won’t be until after lunch, though, so we’ll have the morning to have some quiet inside time.  Which we’ll especially enjoy after three days out of the house!


Categories: home education

Not Back To School

September 2, 2010 4 comments

It seems that this week that the last of the schools have begun!  And me?

Today I took the kids to a Not Back to School picnic with the co-op (secular) that I’m joining this year.   Most of the kids had a great time but dd14 was bored most of the time and ds11 was bored after the boy he was playing catch with had to leave.  It really isn’t interesting when you don’t know anyone and are waiting around for your mother to finish shmoozing.  After eight years of homeschooling in this area, I’ve bumped into a number of moms in various venues over the years so I had a chance to get reaquainted.

We’ve never been part of a co-op before but one thing that is constant about home education is that nothing stays the same!  Kids get older, have different needs, interests, abilities, and what was appropriate in the past needs to adapt.  That’s what home education is about, isn’t it?  Personalizing according to what your children need.

The co-op meets once a week and there’s an option to take as few as one or as many as four classes on that day.  ‘Classes’ sounds formal and academic, but there’s quite a variety of classes – everything from dancing, sewing, and baking to more traditional type classes, with close to 40 different options for kids ranging from 2.5 through high school.  The classes are given by other homeschooling parents so while the approach varies from parent to parent, in general they seem to be more hands on and concerned about enjoyable and engaging learning.

I’ve signed all the kids up for last two classes of the day, which will allow us to spend the morning at home and hopefully give ds1 a chance to take a nap before we leave.  My goal in choosing classes was to find something that I didn’t do much of at home or that the kids showed a special interest in.  It took a bit of finessing to figure out the schedule for everyone, but I’m happy with it and mostly confident that all the kids will enjoy it.

Here’s what I’m doing:  in the first time slot, the littles will all take a music class, “a lively, fun class involving rhythm games, singing, dancing and exploring musical instruments”.  While they’re doing that (I’ll be with them), ds8 will be taking a multi-sensory language arts class (this is for beginning readers and he’s definitely beyond that, but I think it will be fun and encouraging for him to see how easy it is for him and the other language arts class at that time is more formal, with a grammar focus – not my thing), dd9 and ds11 are signed up for improv and drama games (though ds told me he doesn’t think he’ll want to participate, so he might end up bringing a book to read if he makes that choice), and dd14 will be doing a class based on the Trisms curriculum, a cross curricular exploration of early history that is heavily research and writing based.   This is a two period class so it’s the only class she’ll be taking; she wants to work more intensively on her writing skills rather than do a ‘fun’ class and this was the option that seemed most suited to her.

Then for the second slot, ds4 will be doing an art class for 4-6 year olds, ds8 will be doing an art class for 7 -9 year olds, and dd9 and ds11 will be doing ‘Mapping the world with Art’, a geography class that integrates history and art.   I wanted to put dd9 and ds11 into a botany class with lots of hands on activities instead of geography, since they already will be participating twice a month in geography club (this will be their third year in geography club, but in the past it was only once a month) and I thought they’d enjoy the science as something interesting and different.  But the botany class was full and the geography one was the only other choice for their age during that time.  I didn’t have to sign them up for anything but I thought they’d enjoy it – it will be different than the geography they do with their club, so I don’t anticipate much overlap.  (I’ll be with ds1 and ds3 in the nursery during this time.)

It’s been five years since my schedule was so full of homeschool activities out of the house.  In the past I found it was very easy to schedule lots of activities but that being out so often left me feeling like I wanted to homeschool – but I wasn’t home enough.  It was at that point that I chose to simplify by saying ‘no’ to a lot of things and I think that was a great choice; it kept our life sane and balanced, and we still had plenty of trips and activities.

While this year will have more regular outside activities than in the past, I’ve been careful not to schedule anything until after lunch (with one exception), to allow us to keep our routine in place.  That way, the activities will be supplementing our home life, not replacing it.

The exception that I referenced is a 30 week history class for everyone in the family ages 8 and up that I’ve literally been waiting three years for, given by an incredibly knowledgeable and entertaining historian.  The class is 2.5 hours long, with 30 minutes at the beginning is actually a viewing period since he brings in period weapons, artifacts, tools, etc to look at and explore, and supposedly he keeps even kids of all ages riveted.  It will mean an hour drive in each direction every Tuesday morning, but I feel it will be worth it.  My only regret is that I couldn’t do this class when dd15 and ds17 were still homeschooling – four years ago I wanted to register when my oldest was in eighth grade, but a friend suggested I wait until the following year so ds could use it as a high school credit.  I took that advice but the opportunity didn’t come around again until now!  I’m hoping my inlaws will watch the littles each week at this time, since I really would like to sit in on the class, too.  Otherwise, I’ll keep them occupied during the class, something I’ve spent many hours doing in the past with my middles when they were little and my olders were at the class taking stage, but it’s not something I especially find relaxing.  The littles will be much happier with their grandparents, too!

Wednesday will remain our day for activities with our local homeschool support group.  Two of these are geography club for ds8, dd9, and ds11 – one meeting is going to be more information based, the second meeting will be a trip related to the learning they did.  Two years ago in geography club they learned about the world, then last year they did the US, and this year they’ll be doing our state.  The kids really enjoy doing this with a long term home educating mom who enjoys it and makes it lots of fun for the kids.  They have friends in the group, too, so that also adds to the enjoyment.  Since these are close by, it doesn’t mean much of my time, only 10 minutes to drop off and then another 10 when it’s pick up time.  I’ll probably be accompanying them on trips, though, when it works for our schedule.

Then another Weds. is our monthly homeschool gathering, and the final Weds. will be a Lamed Tes melachos (39 categories of work) class for ds4, with projects relating to three of the melachos at each meeting.  All of these will be in the afternoons, so again, they won’t supplant our regular schedule.  I do usually do my monthly shopping on Wednesday, and I’ll have to decide how to handle that if I need to be in this area mid day on those days – with Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays spoken for, it doesn’t leave me a lot of options!

Dd14 has had a number of steady babysitting job requests in the last couple of weeks for the coming year but has only accepted two jobs – one for 5 hours every Tuesday afternoon (so she’ll babysit very soon after we return from our history class), and one for the mornings from 7:15- 8:30.  She likes this because she finds it breaks up the flow of her day to babysit for a couple of hours midday, and she likes to go to sleep early and get up early so late night jobs are hard for her.  She’ll be home in time for breakfast, and it will allow her to continue with her regular schedule undisturbed.  I think she’ll also be tutoring some younger homeschooled girls in Judaics on Monday mornings, but she’s waiting to finalize that.  She also practices piano for 1 – 1.5 hours a day (the other three kids don’t practice more than 30 minutes daily), so her schedule is comfortably full right now, and she’s feeling very good about how it’s come together.

I was considering registering dd14 for a college class but made the decision to include the co-op classes for everyone instead.  I told her I’ll consider it again for the spring semester, but I don’t like squeezing a schedule too tight and neither does she, so we’ll see how we’re feeling about things at that point.  I reminded her that she can go together in the coming year to college classes with dd15, which I think that will be the best option.

So these are some of the plans I’ve been busy organizing recently, in addition to sending off ds17 to yeshiva and dd15 to Israel.  (I always do my planning for the coming year before the year begins, and then only have to make minor adjustments during the year.)  I’ve also been thinking about how to approach different areas of Jewish learning with various children, as well as making plans for ds3 and ds4, who are both ready and desirous of having something ‘big’ (ie official) to do.  I don’t have it all decided on – the biggest remaining question is about ds11, who was learning daily with ds17 and would like more learning time than just with my dh.  All of this has taken a lot of time and brain space, and it’s definitely been expensive, with the fees for all of these classes coming due right now, the same time as the expenses to get the older two kids taken care of.  It helps to remind myself how lucky I am to be able to afford these opportunities.

We’re gradually easing out of our summer schedule towards our ‘school’ year schedule.  With Rosh Hashana just a week away, I don’t anticipate doing very much outside of getting ready for the holidays.  We’ll start a bit of official stuff in the coming week, along with beginning new read alouds with the middles at that time.  The real focus will on Rosh Hashana (started baking yesterday), with plans to start academic type work in earnest at the beginning of October.  That’s one wonderful thing about homeschooling – you can do what works for you, regardless of what everyone else is doing!

I always enjoy seeing everything coming together,  and I’m looking forward to another wonderful year of learning with our family!


Categories: Sample schedules

Encouraging love of learning in disenchanted teen

August 26, 2010 5 comments

>>I read with great interest your posting about your son learning mishnayos, well done! You said kids just want to do the right thing etc and it’s better if they are not pushed, but this is not always the case. I didn’t want to post this in the comments, but I have a 14 year old son who has absolutley no interest in learning (he also wants a smaller yarmulke, never wants to wear his tzizis out, doesn’t want to wear a hat, wants to go to a less frum school etc etc – in general wants to push the boundaries on yiddishkeit). Whenver my husband tries to learn so gemorrah with him, my son puts up a great big fuss, and it’s really not pleasant. I am wondering if your husband himself learns after davening, I bet his does. Someone posted that it’s really to do with modelling, kids model the behaviour of their parents.

Now what do you do if your husband has no interest in learning? I would love my son to learn and it really hurts me that he doesn’t, he even spends much of Shabbos afternoon lying on his bed reading (usually non Jewish books). He has so much time to learn, but he doesn’t. (ALthough he does go to a shiur – not text based – after mincha, so maybe I shouldn’t complain). But he does not ever revise his gemorrah.

The thing is that he never sees his father sitting down to learn, and also his father never ever ever ever in all the years once asked him to learn without me first asking his father to learn wtih our son! This pains me deeply (that my husband, and now my son have no interest in learning), and has pained me for many many years (over 10). I have never told anyone this, as I don’t want to put my husband down to other people. I have had many phone calls over the years from my sons’ teachers telling me how he shows little interest in learning, but what on earth am I supposed to do about it? (I feel like telling them, well it’s not surprising as he never sees his father learn either!).  I have been told not to push my son, so we don’t, but I don’t really see how this will help the  situation. We dno’t push him and he doesn’t learn! Gemorrah is not a subject you can just drop, he will need to go to yeshiva in a few years and learn gemorrah all day, and I wonder how this will work. What do I do?<<

When I read your question, my sense was that there are a few issues behind the expressed concern about Torah learning.  When concerns are religiously based, we tend to not question what our deepest beliefs behind those concerns are, and assume that we have the right intentions in mind.  But although I believe there is real pain about your son’s lack of interest in Judaism and Torah learning, I have a sense that there’s a lot more going on than that.

My feeling is that the primary issues you’re facing are:  a) your relationship with your son isn’t good; b) your husband’s relationship with your son isn’t good; c) your marriage isn’t good; d) you’re very unhappy in general.  Please forgive me in advance for making assumptions that may not be accurate.

Yes, I said in the past that children want to do the right thing, and want to be close to their parents.  That goes along with the following caveat – when children are treated with acceptance and appreciation for who they are, they want to do the right thing.  When they feel a strong and positive bond to their parents, they will strive to emulate their parents. When they feel the heavy weight of expectations they can’t meet or don’t want to meet, it’s a different scenario altogether.

What happens if a child doesn’t feel accepted for who he is?  What if he senses that the approval he receives is dependent on him acting in a certain way, or doing certain things? Yes, we should have standards for our children and hold them to those standards.  A child can see his parents are displeased with bad behavior and appreciate good behavior.  But he should know that he is loved for who he is at the core, even if he doesn’t always live up to our standards.  This isn’t easy to do as a parent, particularly for some children, who due to behavior or personality, are harder to love and accept as they are.

Your son is making it clear that he doesn’t find the way Judaism is practiced in your home meaningful or positive.  This isn’t about gemara – this is about a general dissatisfaction and perhaps cynicism about the value of the life you’re telling him to lead.  He’s not finding inspiration by watching how this plays out in the lives of the adults around him.  Your husband isn’t the only influence on your son.  There are people who are married to spouses who aren’t religious at all who have been successful in giving over a love for Judaism and learning!

Don’t make yourself a victim or tell yourself you have no power.  You’re placing a lot of blame on your husband for things that you have plenty of room to affect for the better.   Stop blaming him and start owning your part – this is a hard thing to do, because you are getting some kind of payback for thinking the way you’re currently thinking that you’ll have to give up.  What are those paybacks?  You’re the one who knows yourself, and you’re the only one who can answer it.  I’m guessing that one very big thing is that you don’t have to be accountable.  No matter what happens to your son, you can say it’s because he didn’t have a father who learned with him, or whatever else.

But maybe you’re wondering, where do you have power?  The mother is the main one who creates the home environment.  No matter who your husband is or isn’t, you can become an emotionally safe and loving person for your son, so that in your presence your son feels secure and accepted to be the person he is, with all of his flaws, fears, and ambivalence.

Support actions that you like and focus on that, and you’ll get more of it.  Focus on all the things your son doesn’t do, and he’ll get the feeling that he’s never good enough and no matter what he does, he can’t make you happy.  I’ll turn the examples you gave upside down: instead of ‘he doesn’t want to wear a hat’, think with appreciation that he wears a yarmulke; instead of ‘he doesn’t want to wear his tzitzis out’, think how wonderful it is that he wears tzitzis even at times when it is uncomfortable or inconvenient; instead of focusing on the secular literature he reads, think how glad you are that you know where he is and what he’s doing, that he chooses decent quality books to read (if that’s true), that he’s not hanging out on street corners with unsavory friends engaging in dangerous or immoral behavior.  You can see where I’m going with this, right? 🙂  Whatever negative you feel, turn it upside down and try to find the positive in it.

What if you take your son to the Jewish library (if you have one) prior to Shabbos, and tell him you know how much he loves to read, and you’d like to help him find things he can enjoy that are in the spirit of Shabbos?  Show him that you understand he’s bored when there’s nothing to do, and are willing to exert yourself to help him find things.  What about taking him to the public library? There are things like inspiring biographies of famous people, motivational books written specifically for teens – maybe it doesn’t match your ideal of Shabbos reading, but it can still be a positive way for your son to use his time.  What about making time to play a board game or card game with him on Shabbos (eg Rumikub)?

Start consciously noticing all the good things your son does every single day – make it a goal to list ten different things a day.  It will be hard at first because you’ll be looking for big things, and you’re going to have to start noticing the small things that you take for granted, or things that don’t seem noteworthy at all.  Don’t tell your son you’re doing this; your attitude towards him will shift and he’ll feel it.

You can be enthusiastic and supportive of whatever learning he does – perhaps let him know you’re so proud that he chooses to go to a Torah lecture on Shabbos afternoon during his free time.  Who cares if it’s text based or not? Maybe you can bake something special for him to have when he gets back from his lecture.  Take five minutes when he comes home to sit down with him while he has a refreshing drink or a treat, and ask him what he learned.  You can share your thoughts, too.  Keep it light and positive, with the focus on the good person he is.  This goes very far in creating a positive feeling towards learning.

I’m going to try to clarify what is meant by the recommendation not ‘to push’.  That means, let go of your emotional expectations and the negative energy that you’re projecting along with it.  It doesn’t mean you stop trying to be a good role model – be a person who has joy in her Jewish life, a person who learns on her own or values those who learn.  Model for your son what a life of meaning in Judaism is to you.  It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it’s really what matters to you.  Kids can sniff out hypocrisy and preaching from miles away, so don’t start faking it.  Think about why you do what you do, what it is you do that gives meaning to your life.  I share these things with my kids in conversation on a regular basis.

It seems there is a lot of resentment and anger towards your husband.  You’re not expressing it directly, and it’s understandable to have so much frustration when you feel your child’s other parent isn’t working with you to create the home you want.  But realize that as admirable as your goals for Torah learning of your son and husband are, they are rooted in ego.  We develop ideas of what the people in our lives should be, and how they should act so that it reflects well on us – and then we get upset when they don’t meet our expectations.  Let go of the expectation – it’s not serving you well and you’re causing yourself to suffer.

Finally, accept that maybe your son isn’t a person who will flourish in the arena of academic study, regardless of how loving and accepting you are.  Every person has unique strengths, interests, and abilities – in the Orthodox community there’s a Lake Wobegone attitude that all boys can be great learners and spend their teen years and up in intensive daily study for hours at a time learning in an intellectual and abstract way.  May I introduce the possibility of realism to this scenario? 😆

Don’t worry about what will happen in a few years, or assume that if your son doesn’t have interest in gemara now that he’s doomed.  Nonsense.  If later on he feels it’s important to him, he’ll exert himself to make up lost ground.  But not every young man will feel gemara is primary to him, and not every young man should be directed to full time yeshiva studies post high school – and that’s okay!  I know it’s almost sacrilegious to suggest that, but there are many ways to know G-d and live a meaningful religious life.  And there are many other parts of Torah except the Talmud:  Chumash (Bible), Navi (Prophets), halacha (Jewish law), mussar (study of character development) – there is so much a person can learn.

You didn’t ask about suggestions for your marriage, but everything I’ve said about accepting and encouraging your son could be applied to your husband, too.

I realize that all of this requires a change in mindset, and changing mindsets and the habits that go along with them is challenging.  It will take time, and it will take conscious effort.  But I guarantee that you, your husband, and your son will all be significantly happier if you do!


Categories: home education, parenting

Lots of learning going on!

August 22, 2010 3 comments

It’s funny how things sometimes seem to come in spurts!

Yesterday ds17 celebrated the completion of a section of gemara (Talmud) that he’s been learning for two years.  We had a small family celebration after our Shabbos meal.  Then his married learning partner this morning made another celebration for him, which was very nice of him.

Ds11 and ds17 recently completed a tractate of mishna together – they’ve been learning most weekday mornings this past year.  We wanted to make an official note of their accomplishment but were a little stymied by the timing.  We had a synagogue picnic in the late afternoon today that we didn’t learn about until a few days ago.  We realized that a number of his friends would have a scheduling conflict, but to do it afterward seems like too much to pack into one day, since the picnic ended at 7 pm.

However, Monday night dh wouldn’t be there, and Tuesday night ds17 and I wouldn’t be there.  We felt it was important that ds17 be there since he was the one who learned with ds11, and dh very much wanted to be there because this is something he values very much.  So rather than have it at a time when either of them would miss it, we decided to do the celebration at 7:15 pm.

Ds11 asked if he could invite a bunch of friends, which was fine. Then he asked if I would buy a lot of ‘junk’ (processed snack foods), which I also agreed to (you would be shocked how much food coloring and sugar was served in my house today!).  And finally, he asked if he could have a swim party afterward with his friends.  And I agreed to that, too!

Since we adjusted the time late last night, ds11 didn’t have much time to notify all the friends he wanted to invite.  After returning home from synagogue in the morning, he had a very short time at home before he went to help run a carnival with a few friends.  (This is their third year doing it and they donate 50% of the profits to charity.)  Then when he came home from that, he had hardly any time before he had to leave for baseball tryouts, and met us directly at the picnic later on.  So really  not much time for making all the calls he would have liked.

In spite of that, it worked out beautifully and a good number of his friends were able to make it.  The purpose of making a mini party is to validate the effort and time he’s put into this learning, and ds11 was very happy about having a bunch of friends be there for this and it turning into a bigger social event.  Also, when we scheduled this I thought ds17 was leaving on Tuesday to go to yeshiva in NY,  but he decided to leave tomorrow morning to have a little more time to get set up there before the term begins.  So tonight really was the last chance we had to have it with ds17 present, so I’m especially glad the timing worked out.

I’m so happy and grateful that both boys have made their Torah learning primary, and that we had good reason to celebrate so much with them both in the last couple of days!


Categories: home education, Mishna, Talmud

L’shon HaTorah dikduk workbooks

August 19, 2010 Leave a comment

We’ve used the L’shon HaTorah workbooks off an on over the years.  I first learned about them from the school my children attending immediately prior to beginning to homeschool.

The workbooks go through learning dikduk thoroughly, without using verses from the chumash.  There are two sets of workbooks; the first is intended for younger children and the second set is for older children.  Workbooks Alef – Hay cover all the skills required to translate Tanach.

Workbooks 1-3 are recommended for junior high students.  There is overlap with the earlier books; Book 1  covers material from aleph and bais in the younger series, plus a bit extra, Book 2 covers gimel & daled in the younger series plus a bit extra; and Book 3 is entirely new material.  Obviously, you can use these books at the pace  that is appropriate for you, so your children can go directly from Book Hay in the younger series to Workbook 1 regardless of age.

These workbooks translate to English, but he also has Yiddish versions.

You can find them at many local Jewish bookstores, but you can also order directly from the author of the series, Rabbi Yehuda Winder. His website is:, and you can contact him if questions come up (I believe his email address and phone number are in the front of the workbooks).  I haven’t spoken with him personally but have heard that he is very pleasant and helpful.


Categories: Hebrew

Of Daffodils and Diesels

August 16, 2010 6 comments

I’ve seen this anonymously written article in a couple of places, and think it nicely shows the difference between schooling and education, as well as the importance and relevance of intrinsic motivation.

Of Daffodils and Diesels

Author Unknown

I’m not very good in school. This is my second year in the seventh grade, and I’m bigger than most of the other kids. The kids like me all right, even though I don’t say much in class, and that sort of makes up for what goes on in school. I don’t know why the teachers don’t like me. They never have. It seems like they don’t think you know anything unless you can name the book it comes out of.

I read a lot at home—things like Popular Mechanics and Sports Illustrated and the Sears catalog—but I don’t just sit down and read them through like they make us do in school. I use them when I want to find something out, like a batting average or when Mom buys something secondhand and wants to know if she’s getting a good price.

In school, though, we’ve got to learn whatever is in the book and I just can’t memorize the stuff. Last year I stayed after school every night for two weeks trying to learn the names of the presidents. Some of them were easy, like Washington and Jefferson and Lincoln, but there must have been 30 altogether and I never did get them straight. I’m not too sorry, though, because the kids who learned the presidents had to turn right around and learn all the vice presidents.

I am taking the seventh grade over, but our teacher this year isn’t interested in the names of the presidents. She has us trying to learn the names of all the great American inventors. I guess I just can’t remember the names in history. Anyway, I’ve been trying to learn about trucks because my uncle owns three and he says I can drive one when I’m 16. I know the horsepower and gear ratios of 26 American trucks and want to operate a diesel. Those diesels are really something. I started to tell my teacher about them in science class last week when the pump we were using to make a vacuum in a bell jar got hot, but she said she didn’t see what a diesel engine has to do with our experiment on air pressure, so I just shut up. The kids seemed interested, though. I took four of them around to my uncle’s garage after school and we watched his mechanic tear down a big diesel engine. He really knew his stuff.

I’m not very good in geography, either. They call it economic geography this year. We’ve been studying the imports and exports of Turkey all week, but I couldn’t tell you what they are. Maybe the reason is that I missed school for a couple of days when my uncle took me downstate to pick up some livestock. He told me where we were headed and I had to figure out the best way to get there and back. He just drove and turned where I told him. It was over 500 miles round trip and I’m figuring now what his oil cost and the wear and tear on the truck—he calls it depreciation—so we’ll know how much we made. When we got back I wrote up all the bills and sent letters to the farmers about what their pigs and cattle brought at the stockyard. My aunt said I only made 3 mistakes in 17 letters, all commas. I wish I could write school themes that way. The last one I had to write was on “What a daffodil thinks of Spring,” and I just couldn’t get going.

I don’t do very well in arithmetic, either. Seems I just can’t keep my mind on the problems. We had one the other day like this: If a 57 foot telephone pole falls across a highway so that 17 and 3/4 feet extend from one side and 14 and 16/17 feet extend from the other, how wide is the highway? That seemed to me like an awfully silly way to get the size of a highway. I didn’t even try to answer it because it didn’t say whether the pole had fallen straight across or not.

Even in shop class I don’t get very good grades. All of us kids made a broom holder and a bookend this semester and mine were sloppy. I just couldn’t get interested. Mom doesn’t use a broom anymore with her new vacuum cleaner, and all of our books are in a bookcase with glass doors in the family room. Anyway, I wanted to make a tailgate for my uncle’s trailer, but the shop teacher said that meant using metal and wood both, and I’d have to learn how to work with wood first. I didn’t see why, but I kept quiet and made a tie tack even though my dad doesn’t wear ties. I made the tailgate after school in my uncle’s garage, and he said I saved him $20. Government class is hard for me, too.

I’ve been staying after school trying to learn the Articles of Confederation for almost a week, because the teacher said we couldn’t be a good citizen unless we did. I really tried because I want to be a good citizen. I did hate to stay after school, though, because a bunch of us guys from Southend have been cleaning up the old lot across from Taylor’s Machine Shop to make a playground out of it for the little kids from the Methodist home. I made the jungle gym out of the old pipe, and the guys put me in charge of things. We raised enough money collecting scrap this month to build a wire fence clear around the lot.

Dad says I can quit school when I’m 16. I’m sort of anxious to because there are a lot of things I want to learn.


Interesting read, isn’t it?


Categories: home education

Free Hebrew lessons

August 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Here’s a site with free language lessons, including Hebrew:

Free is always good!


Categories: Hebrew