Thursday, April 25, 2013

My Pinterest Inspired Pantry

I am seriously so proud of myself! Check out this before and after photo of my pantry- I painted it, transferred food to Mason jars and tupperwares, and now it looks sooooooo preeeeety :) I actually enjoy putting the groceries away!

I think I might be onto something... this whole "before and after" photo's thing- stay tuned as I tackle my house, one closet, wall, room at a time!

Oh- and if you haven't yet entered the From Frazzled to Focus Giveaway, Click Here to do so now!

Have a great week, 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

'From Frazzled to Focused'- a Book Review & Giveaway

Okay ladies, I am officially in love. Butterflies in my tummy, rapid heart beat, head over hills in LOVE with this book.

I received my copy of From Frazzled to Focused by Rivka Caroline today. My kids were all playing happily outside so I sat myself down on a lawn chair and seized the opportunity to take a peek inside.

From the very first page, I felt like this book was written especially for me. While I try to maintain a pretty organized home so things can run as smoothly as possible, my mind is constantly running at about 100 miles an hour, thinking of a million different things I need to do, should be doing, should have done, could be doing, will be doing etc. And as I open the book, on a clear white page are 3 words- FREE YOUR MIND.

Rivka Caronline has nailed this. "The Ultimate guide for moms who want to reclaim their time, their sanity and their lives." Moms- this is not just a book on organizing your home and clearing out clutter. This is a book on organizing your mind as well. And it is written in a way that is so easy and enjoyable to read.

Then enter the raffle below so you can have a chance to win a copy of this simply AWESOME book.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can enter every day, the more entries you have, the more chance you have at winning. And this is one book that you WANT to win, so spread the word and get those entries in.

And if you really can't wait to hear if you won and just want to go ahead and buy the bookClick Here to get yourself, your mom, your sister and your best friend a copy.

Now please excuse me, I have a date with my couch, my copy of Frazzled to Focused and a warm cup of Chamomile Tea.

Have a great week, and Good Luck on the Giveaway- 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Lag B'omer Activity Pack

Here is a really fun and cute Lag B'omer Activity Pack I made for my kids a while back-
Feel free to print it out and enjoy!

Have a wonderful week!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What I Love about Homeschooling...

Granted, there are plenty of challenges when homeschooling and I have addressed many of them right here in my blog. But what I haven't addressed are the things that I actually love about homeschooling...

I LOVE breakfast in our house. I love how it can last for up to an hour, usually from about 7am-8am. There is absolutely no rush or pressure to be anywhere. We make waffles, pancakes, muffins, french toast and all types of yummy oatmeal. We sit, and eat, and chat. It is one of the most enjoyable hours of my day.

I LOVE to be home. "Barefoot, Pregnant and in the Kitchen"- I could not be any happier. I love that I don't have to leave unless I want to. I have always been a home-body. My home is like my nest. I am always happiest at home.

My Kids...
I actually LOVE spending time with my kids. I enjoy them. They're a fun bunch. I love watching them play together. I love watching them play by themselves. I love watching them learn and discover new things. I love watching them read to themselves and to each other. I love watching them laugh. I love snuggling on the couch and reading to them. I love being able to spend so much time with them, because I know this will not last forever.

The Freedom...
I LOVE the freedom of homeschooling. I love how nothing ever HAS to get done and we can always just learn and discover new things. I love how some days we can work on one thing for hours, and other days we can do lots of different things. I love how I don't have to rush to be anywhere at any specific time. I love how when its a gorgeous day, we can turn on the sprinklers and play all morning. I love witnessing how my kids learn so much without it being fed to them or forced on them. 

So while yes, there are plenty of challenges when homeschooling, its always nice to recognize the truly wonderful things that you get to do because you homeschool. It's all about how you look at it.

What do you love about homeschooling?

Have a wonderful week,

Notes from a 'Retired' Homeschooling Mama... with guest blogger Paula Leven

I am so honored to be asked to share our homeschool story! I am one of those retired homeschool moms and I look back on those years with such pleasure and satisfaction! But I most definitely had a lengthy "adjustment period" when we first began...

You see, it had never occurred to me to homeschool anybody -- ever. But then one day, I chanced upon the proverbial "nutty teacher" in my daughter's 4th grade class. She had called to say Rachel wasn't doing well in math and that I should get her a tutor. So I showed up with a tutor -- and the teacher became furious! told me off! and refused to let my daughter leave class for the rest of the day (because she might come looking for me) -- and also wouldn't let her take home any math books!

Whoa. I had never met the lady before. And then the principal told me to "just forget it" and put the kid back in class. We truly struggled with wrapping our minds around the fact that if we were to be responsible parents, we needed to take our daughter OUT of school!

We never did figure out the teacher. They fired her a few months later but by that time we had discovered home school and never looked back -- at "school-in-a-building," that is (as my daughter calls it).

But now it was up to us. Well, more like, up to me.

I walked around clutching John Holt's "Teach Your Own," with the section marked to the story about the man from colonial times whose abilities and knowledge far, far exceeded his years in school. Where did he learn all his skills? Holt asked. He learned on the job, learned from others who knew the skill, and/or taught himself. And, Holt pointed out, he entered the workforce with far more knowledge -- and a much broader knowledge base -- than many college graduates.

These few pages (which became quite dog-eared and coffee stained) gave me the support I needed and reminded me again and again that there was life without school. And that I could do it.

Another homeschool mom gave me fabulous advice. She said it didn't really matter in which order you covered subjects, rather you should ask yourself "what do they need to know at 18?" So when Abraham wanted to study animals three years in row, I (repeatedly) calmed my anxiety that we weren't doing cell biology by reminding myself of her words.

She also said, kids don't ever get to just read in school. Just read -- no tests, no book reports. Just read. So we did that. It was lovely. And I read outloud quite a bit, even though they were perfectly capable of reading for themselves. My 12 year old son lay contentedly on the floor with his sister listening to the entire Little House series. The most fufilling and satisfying years of my life were homeschooling my kids. Truly.

As the years went by, my anxieties abated...somewhat...and John Holt didn't have to go everywhere with me. I started to add things I thought were important -- we attended a trial of five guys accused of selling methamphetamines -- the whole thing. My kids wore their Shabbat clothes everyday and sat in the audience. At the end, the judge called them into his chambers to find out who they were because he had become so curious!
Whenever I would hire a workman, I would explain that part of the job would be to talk to my kids. The exterminator, electrician, plumber, train conductor were all subjected to formal, written out interviews. The librarian of course knew them by name -- and I'm sure that's true for your kids too.

They each had their own private rebbes -- now that was expensive, but so worth it. Neither my husband or I had enough Jewish background to teach them the fundamentals of a day school education, but we did what we could.
My kids never won the national spelling bee or went to Harvard. Their papers weren't published in any professional journals either. But I believe they learned to think critically and, most importantly, learned how to learn -- how to use an index in a book, a library, and how to be comfortable with adults and learn from them.

My oldest kid today teaches humanities and philosophy in college; my daughter is a very wise rebbetzin and an inspiring doula, and my youngest just completed his three years in the IDF and will go to college this fall in communications and political science. We made aliyah when he was 12 -- and even after trying school in a building, he insisted on homeschool.

In Israel we met other homeschoolers through the Gilbert and Sullivan theater company. Although the performances were very professional, the director would take kids for backstage and sometimes for the chorus. What neat enrichment that was! And of course, by living in Israel, we didn't have to pay for him learning Hebrew.....homeschool thriftiness.....

As he worked his way through high school, I returned to the spinning and knitting I had always enjoyed. I decided that "in my retirement," I would take a shot at a small crafts business and opened an etsy story with my homespun knitting and weaving. When I needed to rest a joint in my thumb from overuse, I made ragdolls (because sitting still isn't one of the choices) and I have enjoyed making them too. There are a lot of scary looking rag dolls out there -- mine definitely aren't!

I am forever looking for an interested audience and should you know anyone who likes or wants these things -- and perhaps even wants them from Israel -- please do pass along my name and etsy link (see below). I toyed with making IDF uniforms for my ragdolls so I used my sons discarded shirts and copied what the women soldiers wear...I have them but not up on my site. Neither are the Beit Yaakov school uniforms.....but I can make them too.

Kol ha kavod to all the homeschoolers!

Paula Leven

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Self-Imposed Stress

I had a very difficult summer last year. My nanny went away for a month and my cleaning help left. It was extremely challenging. I vowed to change things this year to make sure it will be a great summer.

We had a wonderful couple spend Shabbos with us this past weekend. They had an almost 3 year old and a 1 year old. Over lunch we got into a heated conversation about their difficult dilemma of where to send their oldest child to school next year. They had 3 choices and we spoke about the pros and cons of each school from tuition to education philosophy to the types of children that go to the different schools.

I guess after hearing parents talking so passionately about the education of their 3 year old, I somehow felt I needed to have that same passion and put it into our summer plans.

I decided that I needed to take my kids away for the summer to be in a Jewish summer day camp with other Jewish kids. Now, I can safely say that we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, but nevertheless, I decided that we NEED to do this, even though there is an insane amount of planning (and money) that would be needed. I decided that staying here and having to entertain them for the summer would be disastrous, based on my last experience.

I decided to drive myself absolutely nuts as well as anyone who would be willing to listen to this terrible dilemma of mine of how I HAVE to go away for the summer and how the kids HAVE to be in day camp. 

I didnt once stop to think that my darling nanny, my right hand lady, will be here this year. All summer long. And my new cleaning help lives down the block and is now a part of the family.

In the summer, my kids are outside all day, every day. We swim at home or we can go to the neighborhood pool. We go to the beach, we go to the park and we live in a hot tourist spot so outdoor activities are endless. 

My kids are fabulous at entertaining themselves and love to play together for hours. Not once have they EVER asked me to go anywhere, not even on an airplane. They don't have a clue what day camp is but I DECIDED that they NEEDED it. 

I think that if we stay home, they will have a wonderful summer. I also think that I need to realize when it makes sense to stress out and when its self imposed. And when it makes sense to go away. Like when they are a little bit older and can truly appreciate the trip.

My oldest is 7 and is dying to go to Lego Land. I would have these pangs of guilt of how this poor child (who has more then a 7 year old could ever need) cant go to Lego Land because his younger siblings are all too young for the trip. 

But you know something. Lego Land will be there when he is 8, 9, 10. And I am sure he will love it when he does get to go.

But as moms, and I am sure many of you can relate to this, we tend to take on self imposed stress. Some things make sense to stress over (Pesach cleaning, making sure the house is ready for Shabbos when its starting in an hour, etc.) and some things we just put on ourselves and its not fair to us or anyone around us.

So after much thought and many conversations with family and friends, I realize that yes, it will be nice one day for them to go to a Jewish day camp but now is just not the time, and that's okay. My kids are very happy and content and I need to look at what IS, not what I think should be. And if what IS is pretty great, then live and let live.

Wishing you all a stress free and wonderful week,

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


We had a really great Pesach. Looking back I thought, what did I do so right that I can carry forward into my homeschooling life to create that calm and stress free environment?

Firstly, I wrote down exactly what I needed to get done and then allotted a specific time frame in which to do it.

Next, I made sure to have all the supplies I needed (cleaning, cooking, organizing) so when the time came to do a certain task, I would have exactly what I needed.

I knew that I could not do this all by myself and so I delegated specific jobs to different people (my hubby, cleaning lady, babysitter, friends) so everyone knew when to be here and what do do when they came.

It sounds so simple, but it was a lot of work and planning on my part- but it worked out perfectly.

Up until now, I had a really great daily schedule that worked really well. This involved my little ones napping for 2 hours every day which gave me 2 hours to get things done. Well, those little ones are growing up and have been on nap strike for the past 3 weeks and I think I may need to surrender. Which means a change of plans  in our daily routine. Not major, but it is still a change. They have also started to show an interest in what the older kids are doing in regard to being in the classroom, writing on their chalk boards, art projects etc. so they will slowly start to join the older crew in class.

I have allotted the hours of 8-12 for our school time. We have a dry erase board on the wall that my 5 year old has the daily responsibility of writing the day, date (in Hebrew and English) and weekly Parshah (she does this at the beginning of the week). We sit on the floor with our Siddurs and daven, and we then begin our day.

One of the principles of a Montessori education is Choice. Kids like to have a sense of control over their lives and tend to understand and learn something much more when it is something they are interested in learning. It is also important to make the learning meaningful and enjoyable.

I start out by offering an activity to each child, for example I will give my 4 year old a mini black board and ask him if he would like to practice writing his alphabet on it. If he say yes, he feels that this is something he chose to do, and will enjoy it even more then if I told him that this is what we are going to be doing.

If he says no, we move on to something else. A workbook, a hands on activity, sometimes he just wants to play with his blocks. And that's fine. But giving him the choice empowers him, and keeps that joy and excitement of learning alive.

When they are done with an activity, either they pick something else to do on their own or if they need assistance, I am there to show them some other things to do. We have never run out of activities.

My kids have their own little desks, but they know that they can do their work on the floor, at their desk, outside on the driveway, even at the kitchen table. It is important that they have the freedom to work where they are comfortable.

Another really important Montessori principle is to have order in the learning environment.

Up until now, our classroom has been very bright with pictures and posters on the walls, bulletin boards, lots of activity going on around the room.

While cleaning for Pesach, I ended up putting away a huge amount of activities, furniture and toys and the room was left looking a lot emptier- and a lot better. I found that the kids spent a lot more time just sitting on the rug and playing for longer amounts of time with the toys that were there.

I have now removed most of the things from the walls leaving the room with a very calm ambiance. The kids really feel it and it makes a huge difference in the quality of their learning.

If you walk into our classroom on a given morning, chances are you will find each one of my kids either sitting at their desks, sitting or laying on the floor and pretty engrossed in whatever they are doing. When I sense they are becoming antsy, I encourage them to go outside and get some energy out.

While this is not the conventional way of learning, it works. My kids do not rely on me to keep them entertained. I make sure that they have lots of learning materials readily available to them so all they have to do is look and choose what to do. And they love it and they thrive.

For Parshah, we all snuggle on the couch and I read aloud to them from The Little Midrash Says. Who doesn't love snuggling with mommy on the couch? If they want to do a project, we do a project. If they want to keep reading, we keep reading.

Homeschooling can be so challenging at times, but it is also such a gift in disguise. We get to give our kids the gift of being able to learn the things they love, to learn things that interest them. We get to snuggle with them on the couch while learning about our rich and beautiful Jewish Heritage. If we show our kids how excited and interested we are to be learning all of this, it will automatically excite them.

So here's to excitement, to the love of learning and to letting our kids just blossom into the amazing little people that they are!

Wishing you a wonderful week,

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