A Full Week!

Wow, the middle of October and hard to believe that we only just finished a full week of school!  It’s been a tough week for boys for as soon as school work was finished, off to selling popcorn.  Baruch Hashem most of the time we were inside, though Baruch Hashem it has been wonderful out here!  I did have the next two days scheduled inside the JCC, but I think we have exhausted the crowd there and I will give some boys a happy break from selling popcorn so they can work on their Foliage Raking elective.  It has been hard to get outside when it is light when we come home at sunset time.  Our yard is wonderfully colored right now, but if we wait much longer I am afraid it will not and instead it will be dull and gloomy looking.

Even with the extra-curricular activity of socialization with selling popcorn, I have been able to spend some time outside getting my exercise with bike rides.  Daddy was even home one day to go out with me, which was an extra bonus. 🙂  I am not really looking forward to the diminishing light, however, on the flip side, the children have been going to sleep a little easier since they do not have the light shining in!  Baruch Hashem I moved south after getting married so the sun sets before 11pm in the summer…….

Over the last 4 months or so I have been going to a friend’s house to learn with a few other friends.  We are reading “Garden of Emuna (faith/belief)” by Rabbi Shalom Arush.  We read a few pages each week and talk about it, taking turns discussing and asking questions.  It is a nice heimishe group.  Over the last few weeks, I have noticed a change.  I do feel a closer connection to our Creator, and I find I am looking at things with a slightly new twist.  I enjoy the weekly getaway, and I feel better about myself and life in general.  I was wondering how I could instill the new feeling of emuna into my boys while they are young instead of waiting for them to get older to read such a book.  It is hard for children to really feel and learn some spiritual concepts while young, but it is so very important.

(Note: This book is not recommended for girls who are in school/seminary until after they have been married for a while – they need to be out in the real world a bit.  I would assume it would be similar for boys, though it is harder for me to tell for I was never a boy!)

To create emuna, one needs to have a connection to Hashem. Someone in our group told a nice parable.  A father had two daughters.  The first daughter was given a credit card and was told she could purchase anything she wanted.  The only condition was that she call before buying anything, but she was welcome to purchase anything.  The second daughter was given a credit card and told she could purchase anything.

The first daughter would find something and call, “Hi Dad, I found this nice skirt, and the price is right.”  “Sure, enjoy!”  The father always agreed to whatever she purchased.  The second daughter would find something and buy it.  No call.  She was not told to call.  At the end of the year, the first daughter had a much closer relationship with her father for she called all the time to touch base and the second daughter never called.

I want our boys to have a similar connection to their Father in Heaven as the first daughter.  Yes, I try to show by example, but I do not show everything I feel.  I do not verbalize all the times I thank Hashem for the little things, and they are not there when I cry out to Hashem to help me with rough days.  So, we have begun a new thing.  At least once a day, at various times in the day, I will sit down with all of them and ask each one of them to tell us for what they are thankful to Hashem for today.  At first it was hard for some of them, and yes, they would sometimes repeat what a brother before him had said, but they are slowly getting the idea.  It does not matter to me what they are thankful for and it does not matter how small the item is.  Actually, sometimes I think it is great that they come up with such tiny things to be thankful for because then they understand that everything is from Hashem, not just the big stuff, and will have a better understanding that Hashem is with them everywhere and at all times.

Today I asked for two things from each boy.  We were eating supper at the time.  I had made a double batch of split pea soup in the crock pot today and each boy, for one of his two things, said they were thankful for the pea soup that they were eating – and they each had a huge smile on their face!  *love*  I am doing somethings right! (And yes, each of the 4 boys had a second helping!)

The boys do like their Rebbe, and the Rabbi does offer a nice range of classes, but I only have one boy in a class at a time usually.  So, that means that not all the boys get all the classes.  It is not all that bad, for some of the classes I make up by teaching myself, and others I plan on having the younger ones take in future years when I age the older one out.  I do this for various reasons, mainly because I need to have time to teach all the boys, and if they are all taking most of the classes, then I would not have time to teach them all everything for they are all on different levels and time is a slight factor!

I feel it is best to teach the boys a couple more combined classes, similar to how we do parsha.  The thing is, I want something that is interesting that could be taught in small doses.  It keeps their interest better so that way they will hopefully remember more.  Davening is always something that is hard to do unless you know what you are saying.  I did find a nice tefillah curriculum that had 24 short lessons on chinuch.org. The lessons are to be done one a week. Something simple, but yet helps all the boys learn just a bit at a time, a nice small bite sized amount.  I like small amounts spread over a long period of time.  That is how we do our secular studies.  The idea is that time gives the person time to think about what was learned and gives the subconscious time to mull things over and to solidify the thoughts and ideas.  I have seen how this works well in many cases.  Last year I had a son discuss a reading with me and while he was talking to me he told me, “they did not say in this book, but in the other book we read they also mentioned xxx.”  It was so nice to hear him take things from various sources and put them together to create a whole picture and he was so excited to be able to do that for me and without me even prompting!

I’m signing off here to do some exercising before bed!

Fitting It All In

Fitting it all in does not just mean the school work I want the boys to do, nor does it mean how to juggle all the house cleaning, laundry, shopping, cooking and anything else that needs to be done.  Fitting it all in also includes having regular free time for myself so I do not feel so overwhelmed all the time.  When I have found free time on a regular basis, I find that I can and do have the energy and drive to actually do things such as cleaning, cooking and laundry without feeling so pressed for time or doing it begrudgingly.

There is always room for growth, no matter how much we work on improving, so even a seasoned homeschool parent is constantly learning and trying to improve things.  I have been looking for ways to make everything work, including making things more calm in the evening.  What I did not count on is that I have not only made my evenings more free and open, my days are calm AND we are fitting in more things!

When I first started homeschooling (over 7 years ago now,) it was not much of an issue.   As I mentioned before, but will recap briefly again, I used a regular school-like curriculum with textbooks, workbooks and tests.  I had one boy I was teaching, and we were able to complete everything in a couple hours in the morning and perhaps another hour in the afternoon. It became tricky once the younger boys were old enough to start school as well.  If one boy needed 3 or so hours of my time, then two boys needed at least 6 hours and 3… well, I was starting to wonder how I would be able to teach everyone.   We ended up doing some unit study/notebooking for two years, and that was a bit better, for I could actually include all three boys into most lessons, even though they were on various levels.  Those worked well for the years we did them, but I still was not happy.

Most of you know by now that we are doing the Ambleside Online (AO) curriculum, which is a Charlotte Mason (CM) based curriculum.  This style of teaching was calling out my name, and calling very loudly.  Not only is it a rigorous secular schedule and not only is it G-d based, meaning I do not have to worry about evolution based teaching, it also focuses on short days – 1.5-2.5 hours in the younger years and 3-3.5 hours in the older years. And when the boys are old enough, they actually do most of the work themselves and only come to me at the end of the readings to discuss and narrate. This means, I have plenty of time to teach all three boys, and by this time number 4 boy was already here, I had time to get our Judaic learning done as well!  That really made such a difference, not only on time, but with my mind, I was more at ease.

The change in the curriculum helped a lot, however, I was still very busy until bed time.  With children actually in the house and using it all day it gets, well, used, Baruch Hashem!  The drawback to it getting used is that there is more to clean up at the end of the day.  I felt I needed to stay up late just to chill out and de-stress and that is not the best for shalom bayis when my wonderful tired husband kept asking me when I was going to be ready.  I would feel rushed to de-stress and that is very hard to do!

There are two other changes I have made this year to my schedule and after just a few weeks, I have noticed such a tremendous and wonderful change.  The first change was in our schedule.  It is so easy to schedule one lesson after another – especially when it is going from one child to another for then the children can get breaks and I can get everything in that I want.  There is only one small snag in that theory, and that is… it does not work.  Even though we ONLY need 15 minutes for one subject and 20 afterwards with another boy, unless the children know how to pretend they are on an assembly line, it just won’t work.  Period.  Murphy’s Law will come into effect all the time, guaranteed. A child will not find a book (even though they had 15 minutes to get it,) a younger child will need attention, someone comes to the door, etc.  What happens then is that you feel like you did not get what you needed done and you feel like a failure.

This year I got smart.  Actually, it was more of luck, but yes, there was a little bit of smartness as well.  No matter how long we need for a lesson, I give it 45 minutes!  So, even if I need 15 minutes, I do not schedule anything else for 30 more minutes.  I did this for as my youngest needs more attention, this gives me the added minutes to cushion in time for him.  It also gives time for all the other distractions -CFAP Syndrome (Can’t Find A Pencil,) CFTB Syndrome (Can’t Find The Binder/Book,) IJNTBN Syndrome (I Just NEED The Bathroom NOW,) etc.  In other words, it gives the boys just a little bit extra free time during the day, with a less stressed Mom.  Even if the boys are all ready and I am all ready, I still give them the rest of the 45 minutes and we all love it!  It is cute watching a boy looking at his chart and saying “XXX we have 15 more minutes, come, let’s do YYY!”  The nice smiles on their faces somehow makes it all worthwhile.  I think it is the idea that playing is now mutar, now permitted, and they do not have to ask me to play or read or whatever, that is *their* time and there is even less CFAP, CFTB and IJNTBN Syndromes now!

I also started something else.  I did this a few times last year and it worked nice, and so this year I decided I was going to do it every week.  I make a list of meals and the grocery list on Sunday before shopping.  I was worried that I would forget or things would just happen and it would not get done, but I think that since I was determined to do this for the right reasons AND (and this is the most important thing,) I was ready for it, Hashem has helped me out so far.  Yes, I know friends that already do this and I even had at least one of them suggest it to me before, but I was not ready.  After really thinking about it and letting it simmer in my mind for many months, I am now ready.

This works wonders for not only do I have all the ingredients I need for the week, I do not have to worry or wonder what I am making for supper, this huge relief has been lifted from my shoulders.  I also have found that I do not mind making something that takes a little extra TLC for supper for I don’t have to spend the time thinking about it which gives more time to cook, if I so choose.

Now, I’m not saying now that I seem to have more free time that my house is spotless, I’m just saying that I have figured out how to keep the status quo and give myself regular free time.  At the same time, I am slowly (albeit very slowly,) working on raising the status quo.  I’m positive I will eventually get there. 🙂

Isrug Chag – The Day After and Our New Elective

I hope everyone had a wonderful Yom Tov.   We ended our Chol Hamoed with a mini birthday party for the now 9 year old (at a friend’s house!) and the two Big Boys had fun contacting more people on the radio together.  It was actually a very busy day on the radio and they just flipped from one frequency to another to another making contacts!

The last Yom Tov day was the busiest I think of them all.  I got the little one all pumped up on Sunday for dancing with the Torahs that after our “lesson,” he went around and collected most of our stuffed Torah collection.  I did not realize we had so many, Baruch Hashem, and I do believe he missed quite a few.  I am not sure where they all came from, for I only remember buying 4!  He came up to me and announced that he was going to take ALL the Torahs to shul to dance with.  I had to burst his bubble and tell him only 1.  He was amazingly okay with that.  And yes, he was sure to take the Torah of his choice (the BIGGEST one of course, and oh, it was red, just in case you were wondering,) both during the night and then again in the day.  Everyone had fun, we did not get home until 4pm!  I even let them bring over a friend after shul.

After all the treats, excitement and lack of sleep for boys, I have decided to put them to work immediately with school work.  We did not quite get a complete day in, but it was off to a good start and I think tomorrow will be even better.  We did, however, start a new course.  They will get the benefit of the great outdoors, exercise, comradeship and home caring all rolled into one.  In school, there are the required themes they have to cover, and then there are the electives that the teachers get to choose from to fill up the extra time.  My boys also have electives.

They have started the elective course on Foliage Raking. This is going to be an ongoing course, probably done several times a week for the next two months.  After that, I think there will be a course on Crystalline Ice Water.  This course will involve the gathering of the crystalline ice water with the use of hands, shovels and even the tongue.  We will also experiment with various uses of the crystalline ice water such as fort building and fort defending.  Perhaps even the use of it for house construction. This course will last at least 4 months and classes will be held several times a week at least, if not more.  Bet you cannot find these electives in a school!  To view some more great homeschool elective ideas, watch this video.

Aside from our new elective, we also had a huge case of Post Wonderful Yom Tov’d Ness.  In other words, children who have been on totally different cycles in eating, playing, and sleeping, and it finally caught up with them.  I knew that at least one boy was going to have a difficult day.  He crashed for a nap for several hours on Monday afternoon.  It did not help that he forced himself awake last night, after Yom Tov, to read in his room until after midnight. I knew last night I was going to have my day set out for me today, and that I was going to have to wake him up early to start him on a normal routine as quickly as possible.  If he was up early, he would actually sleep tonight and hopefully be almost his normal self for tomorrow.  Yes, it was a difficult day for him.  Everything set him off.  Unfortunately, I did quite a bit of practicing of my voice raising on him today.  Would have preferred voice training oppose to voice raising, but perhaps next time.

There is always good that comes out of everything.  His off attitude was just a heightened manifestation of where his attitude has been going over the last month.  Both Daddy and I have tried to check it and get it under control, but to no avail.  Today, after the voice raising, and his being upset at what he considered his harsh Mother, I stopped and had a little talk with him.  I have to admit, it is hard being a child, especially when you perceive yourself a lot more mature than your younger brothers.  One brother can get annoying and you just want him off your back.  You’re exhausted because you are reading a breathtaking book way too late and nothing seems to go your way.  Mommy seems to boss you around, and your brothers seem to always get away with things (in your eyes.)  *Sigh*  Yes, it is hard being the oldest.

I would like to think that my advice to him helped, just a little, for it did calm down a bit the rest of the afternoon and evening.  They all were warned they were going to bed early…. Well, I tried, however, they were all in bed at the regular bedtime, and yes, IN BED.  Now, I did not say asleep, and I did not say they stayed in bed.  Did have the little one come out because he was thirsty…. took several long gulps on multiple occasions before he finally went to bed and stayed there.  It really did not take that long for them to go to sleep.  I insisted that everyone was to be in their own bed.

Several loads of laundry have been done today (thanks in part to chores a poor boy racked up with his tantrums… I did fold all of the clothes for him,) the kitchen has been mostly cleaned up from some busy boys today by those busy boys (amazingly!) and now I’ll finish the kitchen, put another load of laundry on and do some exercising.  I think there might be some leftover time to veg and perhaps do some reading before my wonderful husband comes home from learning.

Wishing you all an easy transition back to your non-Yom Tov schedule!

Gut Moed!

***Please have Raphael Gavriel Simcha Chaim ben Shulamis in your prayers – (Note name addition, things are very serious. )he is a young man (early 20’s) who has a brain tumor.  It was mostly removed several months ago, but it has grown back.  He has remained in the hospital.***

We’re half way done the first half of the last set of Yomim Tovim, in other words – the middle of Sukkos. 🙂  The weather is beautiful, with just one meal being rained out on us.  It is definitely getting cooler, but still warm and I still do not need to wear a jacket – and that is coming from someone who wears jackets because she gets cold easily.  Yesterday I went for a bike ride, and I got in not just one, but two nice bike rides today.  I really enjoy looking at all the wonderful colors.

The little one has his own lulav and esrog and is very proud of it.  I even found last year’s lulav holder for him as well as a nice box to put the esrog.  When we got to shul, he was very excited to show it to his friend and share it with her.  The second day I made a point to get to shul earlier than we usually go so that he could make it for Hallel where they walk around the bima with their lulavim and esrogim.  We got there on the last circuit, just enough for a 3 year old to have fun and not get bored. 🙂

Yesterday started off nice with a bris (Yom Kippur baby!), buying a very excited 3 year old new Shabbos shoes for his got ruined and then a wonderful Room613 Virutual Sukkos party.  For those who are not sure what a virtual party can include, there were stories, songs, fun Sukkos riddles and a talent show.  Yes, a talent show!  There was a comedian telling riddles and jokes, bike tricks, karate tricks and a wonderful pianist.  Modern technology is amazing, with a laptop and a video camera, we were able to walk outside one of the homes of the boys and watch him ride his bike outside and do some tricks.  It was not perfect, the video cameras have a bit more to be desired sometimes for they did occasionally freeze up for the audience.  Aside from that, it was a lot of fun.  I have to put a nice plug in for homeschooling – it’s hard to watch bike riding tricks in a school, but it was so easy to do in a homeschool setting!

I had wanted to do some learning about the rest of the holidays.  I figured I have three days before Shabbos, and perhaps something (most likely  not) on Sunday before Yom Tov.  That was my plan.  As I mentioned in the last post, I love all the Yomim Tovim, however, it is hard to find all the time I would like to take to teach about every Yom Tov – before the Yom Tov.  We only had a couple of days after Yom Kippur before Sukkos, and so I figured it would be great to learn the rest during Chol Hamoed figuring it was a great way to increase Torah learning a little bit and not have a free for all holiday.  So I planned.

After the bris yesterday, I had one boy make a spontaneous play date (which turned into a sleep over) and another boy had the brother over to our house for his spontaneous play date.  Boy number 3 was happy as a clam to turn the radio on and call “CQ” in hopes to reach people in other parts of the world, which he did. (Amateur Radio aka Ham Radio.)  He also spent some time learning so he can upgrade his radio license from Technician to General so he can use more frequency bands.

After lunch today I had three boys come to the house (one was mine and the other two were the brothers from the spontaneous play dates).  One brother stayed to play with one of my boys and the other brother went with one of my other boys to yet another house for several hours!  My oldest, was still happy as a clam learning outside in the sukkah for his general class and talking to people on the radio. I do not really mind.  It is hard to play with friends who are at school during the day (imagine that!)  We also had a wonderful sukkah party for the Cub and Boy Scouts in our sukkah and a Mazal Tov to my oldest for earning his Second Class rank for Boy Scouts tonight! 😀

We did not get to sleep in the sukkah the first few nights for it did rain and drizzle on and off, however, last night and tonight the boys took advantage of the wonderful weather.  Unfortunately Mommy and Daddy are not out there for Daddy is a bit sick and does not want to get sicker.  I really enjoy the fresh air – it is not too hot nor too cold, just nice and cool and fresh and I wake up really refreshed in the morning when I do get to sleep outside.

I still have my plans… Baruch Hashem we still have tomorrow!  I am determined to get some learning done (will have to say no to play dates….. 🙁  )

It is late, and I’m off to finish making challah, so hope everyone has a wonderful Moed, Shabbos and Yom Tov!