Getting Myself Ready – My Chizuk

Yes, I know that experiences cannot be equaled and in case I was not sure about it, after the past few weeks, there is definitely no doubt in my mind.  Over the past week and a half, our boys have spent many, many hours outside, in the water – ponds, creeks, etc. playing in the sand, feeling the seaweed, smelling the different smells, watching lobsters hide, seeing small schools of fish, as well as larger ones.  Not to mention watching out for poison ivy and poison oak as we hike through the neighboring forests and seeing, feeling and smelling all the wonderful things there.  Charlotte Mason definitely knew what she was talking about when she said the only science a child needs for the first 6 years should be nature study.

We have been doing Ambleside Online for 2 years now, and I could never really fit in nature walks like I should, even though I wanted too, and I thought I tried.  I am hoping these wonderful experiences will encourage me to try harder.  Really, it all boils down to having the right schedule.  I find that I can stick to a schedule pretty good if I have one (and I’m the one that makes it, which is good!)

We are told that to raise good and happy children, the relationship between the mother and the father must be a good and happy one as well.  One of the ways to attain this is to make the relationship between husband and wife a priority over the children, that way the children can see how a good relationship should be and how they should act, for seeing has more of an impact than telling.  Homeschooling is not only about the children, it is about us, the teachers as well and therefore we need to nurture ourselves and take care of ourselves first.

We are just a few short weeks from Rosh Hashanah and we have had the most amazing few weeks. We do not get to interact very often with homeschoolers – we do not really have that much in common with the ones we know who are local, and to interact with religious Jewish homeschoolers on top of that is even more of a bonus.  Don’t get me wrong, it is not that I have an issue being the “different” one, not at all, however, occasionally it is good to meet others who are different like you.

It was good for the children to be able to play with other religious Jewish homeschoolers, and it was good for me to be able to talk to not just one, but two mothers who have similar philosophies as we do.  It was so exciting to talk to mothers who have had at least double the amount of years of homeschooling behind them than I do for it gave me a chance to see where I could be as a homeschool parent – what kinds of ideas I could try to use, from “experts”.   I was also glad I was able to share some of our experiences and see that I could be of some help as well.  And, it was nice just to talk!

I once heard from a rabbi that all the spiritual connection and chizuk that we get from Rosh Hashanah through Sukkos is set so that it carries us through the dark times of winter, yes, we have a little bit of light from Chanukah, but there are no Yomim Tovim until Pesach, and our neshamas need the spiritual connection.  So too, I felt that Hashem has given me this boost of the visits of two wonderful mothers (and their children!) to help give me chizuk for the next while. I felt lucky to have such wonderful conversations with one of the mothers that came.  We took the children out in the afternoon and then they still did not have enough time together, so her son came over for a sleepover.  After the mother left, I felt not only spiritual happiness and chizuk, but I found it gave me chizuk in general to do some stuff around the house that I was trying to get done.  I tried to soak up all the chizuk and spiritual connection that I could so that it would carry me over until the next encounter.




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learning From Everything

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Room613 Class Schedule for 2012-2013

Class descriptions can be viewed by clicking here.

Main Schedule

Classes with Rabbi Yosef Resnick *
NOTE: All of Rabbi Resnick’s classes are on the main schedule and are included in the Unlimited Learningmembership EXCEPT those marked “elective.”

All times are Eastern Time, except where otherwise noted.

9:30 – 9:45 Davening Circle (*free and open to all member levels)
10:00 – 10:30 Jewish Thought: Hanhagos Tzadikim (Customs of the Righteous)
10:45 – 11:15 Chumash: parshat Chayei Sarah/parshat Toldot
11:30 – 12:00 Halacha I: Concepts & Topics in Jewish Law – Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Yalkut Yosef (and other texts)

1:00 – 1:30 Torah SheB’al Peh/the Oral Torah: Mishna (mesechta Sukkah, perek 4) and other texts
1:45 – 2:15 Nevi’im/Prophets: Sefer Shmuel I (beginning at perek 14)
2:30 – 3:00 Biur Tefillah: Insights into the Siddur & Prayer
3:15 – 3:45 Elective “The Thinking Jewish Teenager’s Guide to Life” (for teen boys)4:00 – 4:30 Elective  Talmud: in-depth study of mesechta Brachos and others

9:30 – 9:45 Davening Circle
10:00 – 10:30 Jewish Thought: Hanhagos Tzadikim
10:45 – 11:15 Chumash: Parshat HaShavua/weekly Torah portion (textual study)
11:30 – 12:00 Halacha II: Rambam’s Mishneh Torah (various topics)

1:00 – 1:30 Ketuvim/Writings: Mishlei/Proverbs, Tehillim, and other texts
1:45 – 2:15 Nevi’im: Sefer Shmuel I (beginning at perek 14)
2:30 – 3:00 Basic Torah KnowledgeYediot Klaliot & Musagim b’Yahadut / Fundamental concepts in Judaism (based on the Torah u’Mesorah books and other sources) 
3:15 – 3:45 Elective Hebrew Language Arts

9:30 – 9:45 Davening Circle
10:00 – 10:30 Jewish Thought: Hanhagos Tzadikim
10:45 – 11:15 Chumash: parshat Chayei Sarah/parshat Toldot
11:30 – 12:00 Halacha I: Topics in Jewish Law – Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Yalkut Yosef (and other texts, rotating topics)

1:00 – 1:30 NEW! Jewish Service Learning; study of various topics in combination with community service: tzedakah, bikur cholim, etc.
*No classes after 1:30 on Wednesdays

9:30 – 9:45 Davening Circle
10:00 – 10:30 Jewish Thought: Hanhagos Tzadikim
10:45 – 11:15 Chumash: Parshat HaShavua (textual study)11:30 – 12:00 Halacha II: Rambam’s Mishneh Torah

“The Shabbos Trilogy”
1:00 – 1:30 Mitzvot & Halachot in the Weekly Parsha – Midrash, Sefer haChinuch, Ben Ish Chai, and more!
1:45 – 2:15 Shabbat Laws & Customs
2:30 – 3:00 Insights into the Weekly Parsha (not textual study) 
3:15 – 3:45 Elective for boys ages 7–9: Kriah, Stories, Parsha & More!
4:00 – 4:30 Elective Talmud: in-depth study of mesechta Brachos and others

Fridays & Sundays
Private classes & tutoring (please contact me to arrange private sessions)

 * Alternative Scheduling Option for LA Homeschoolers *
and all others who are not in the Eastern U.S. time zone
 If you’re in a time zone that makes attending our live morning classes impractical, this plan is for you. Our Alternative Schedule offers unlimited access to all of Rabbi Resnick’s afternoon classes on the main schedule. In addition, you have unlimited access to all morning (and afternoon) classes as complete audiovisual recordings, available any time of day or night.

The schedule is subject to change. If you have suggestions or requests, please let us know.

I was asked *THE* question

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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