I receive many similar e-mails from lots of Jewish moms asking me "where to begin" when it comes to Jewish Homeschooling. Now I must tell you that I am a rookie in this department since my oldest is almost 7 which means I have been doing this less then 6 years. But I will tell you what works for me and my family as every mom is different and every family is different.
From the age of 0-6, our kids have an amazing ability to truly experience the world. What does this mean? It means that instead of focusing on "teaching them things" we should focus on giving them the tools to learn how to figure things out for themselves. And how do we do this? By letting them experience the world through all five senses: sight, taste, smell, touch and sound.
These early years are so important for our kids to explore and discover. You don't need fancy toys. You need simple toys. Blocks, balls, crayons, musical instruments. The simpler the toys, the better.
If you go through this blog, you will find many activities involving the 5 senses. These are great for them to do at this age. Allow them to help you in the kitchen. Let them learn how to pour their own milk. Peel their own apple. The more you allow them to figure things our and do things by themselves, the higher their self esteem and the easier it will be for you!
Another very helpful thing to do is set up a daily routine and stick it up on the wall- it can look something like this:
Remember, this is for the early years, when most of your kids are under the age of 6. Playtime is free play. Time for them to just play. Its usually early in the morning so they want to do their own thing. Let them. If you have a playroom, great. If not, have a special section of the house with their toys, preferably not their bedrooms. make sure it is not cluttered and all the toys are visible to them and organized. They should be able to clean up after themselves when finished playing.
Activity time is when you present activities to them that you have prepared. Pouring beans from one container to another. Stickers, art project, sorting, stamping, cutting, gluing, painting etc. You can do this at the kitchen table or at a special school table if you have the room in your home. Let the kids see the difference between free play and doing an activity.
Don't worry about content. They are young and will ultimately learn the Parshah and Holidays. Right now it is all about giving them the skills to absorb lots of information when the time comes. Don't beat yourself up on drilling information into their heads. Its all about them learning how to learn.
In regard to davening with the little ones, using a CD always works well, doing motions, using musical instruments. Make it fun. You can do it before activity time or playtime.
They will learn their Alef Bet, ABC's, numbers and shapes when they are ready. And you will know when they are ready because they will begin to show an interest. Trust me, trust yourself and most of all, trust your little ones.
In regard to Jewish content, flood your home with Jewish books and Music. There is a lot out there and it should be a priority when purchasing anything for your kids.
When my kids start 1st grade they begin the Shluchim Online School which is an Online Yeshiva. So far, my son who is in 2nd grade absolutely loves it. He does this in the morning and we do his English studies in the afternoon. My 5 year old will start 1st grade next year.
Many of you are afraid that your kids wont be up to the same level as kids in school. Studies show that homeschooled kids are actually far more ahead of children in school. If this is something that worries you, find a contact at a Yeshiva that you respect and ask them to help you out in that department. Maybe get in touch with a teacher who teaches the age of your kids and ask if you can get an idea of where the students are up to every few months. Maybe she can even email or mail you the quizzes and tests she is giving to her students. There are lots of possibilities. Or if you have friends or family with kids the same age or older as your kids, ask them to save their kids worksheets and tests and send it to you. You can use this as a guide for yourself.
I really hope this post answered some of your questions and addressed some of your concerns! It is not an easy journey Homeschooling, but we figure things out along the way.
The Power of Using our G-d Given Talents (and Helping Our Children Recognize Theirs.)
There are twelve months in the Jewish calendar. The talent of SMELL is the eighth, the month of Cheshvan, (October-November.)
Individuals who have this unique talent are sensitive and intuitive and have an inexplicable knowing beyond logic and reason. They are deeply attuned to their inner visceral responses. They can "sniff" out a situation and determine what is really going on. For these people, the ability to judge beyond the conscious level through gut feelings is very strong. They can just "smell it." Discriminating with this heightened sensitivity awakens a recognition of whether something is bad or good, whether it reeks or is fragrant. Their sense of smell guides them. This is the way they move through life and the world.
We can be role models to our children by encouraging them to tune in to their inner world and to pay attention to their gut feelings. It is important to recognize that people with this talent need to check in with themselves and not to be dominated by another people's ways of doing things. As we raise them to have good character traits, we can ask them to sense how they might do things in a better way. Encouraging them to trust their own gut intuitions
strengthens and guides them in relating to the world.
Tools For Developing Your Sense of Smell:
1. Take a deep breath and tune in to your soul intuition.
2. There is a halacha (a Torah law) that says that “If the smell of food is bad, discard it.”
The Talmud explains: “That’s why G-d created the nose above the mouth. One should
first smell and then taste.” If it smells bad then it’s not something to take into your life.
3. Get into the habit of taking in only what is good for you, not the opposite.
4. Develop empathy in an intuitive, gut way. Sense where to care.