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.



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.