Wednesday, February 26, 2014

For older kids- an excellent Chumash Tool

My older kids have started learning Chumash. While they are very familiar with many of the stories from learning the weekly Parshah over the years, the time has come for them to learn how to decode the actual Chumash and try to read the story inside the actual Book.

I have this wonderful activity from Lelamdam for kids to learn the root letters, how to recognize and understand the nouns, prefixes and suffixes as well as plural when learning the words in the Chumash. There are 2 levels, the second is for when the kids are ready to move on from nouns to verbs.

For those of you with little ones, put a star on this post and open it up in a few years when your kids are old enough to begin their journey inside our holy books. 

For those of you whose kids have just begun this journey, call 845-444-2648 to purchase your own set. The selling price for each level is $19.99 and it includes free shipping within the United States. An investment I highly recommend.

I also wanted to let you know that I have a fabulous Giveaway coming up soon, so stay tuned!
I hope you are having a wonderful week,

Monday, February 24, 2014

Whats Cookin? An interview with Aunt Rishe

I didn't grow up in a very large family, so this whole idea of cooking for a bunch of picky kids is very foreign to me. I have had to figure things out along the way and always marvel at those moms with their monthly/weekly menus and shopping lists.
I am very lucky to have a really wonderful aunt who is not just a successful editor in her own right, but she has 8 kids (all are adults now) but she always seemed to have the whole dinner thing down. I remember going over for dinner and there would be a table full of people, most of them her kids, and there was always a huge amount of the most delicious and healthy food. 

She has graciously gifted me with some of her time and wisdom on getting good wholesome meals on the table by dinner time for a large amount of kids (picky or not) and I hope you find it as helpful as I did!

 An Interview with Aunt Rishe:

1- What are your thoughts on quality and quantity versus variety when it comes to planning a meal

When you have a large family of young children, pat yourself on the back if you can get one hot thing on the table at night and one cold thing. So if you get chicken and salad, GREAT. if you get rice with onions/peppers/mushrooms, and cantaloupe, FANTASTIC. Variety? Not necessary. That is for later, when your life eases up.

2- Can you give a basic weekly dinner menu in your house

Sorry, I am lazy to answer this one.

3- Do you make a meal plan every week/month or plan per day

I try for every week, but sometimes I goof off on that. One thing I find very helpful: once I’m already spending Friday in the kitchen, I try to cook LOTS so we will have supper Sunday night for sure and hopefully Mon night also.

4- How do you cater to picky eaters when cooking large quantities of food for a large family

I don’t. I don’t think it is advisable for mothers to cater to picky eaters. Making a big deal out of what a kid eats, or how much, only encourages eating disorders later on. You put the food down. Whoever wants it and needs it will eat it. The others can wait til breakfast the next day if they want to, or they can take a fruit or make themselves some toast. 

True story: I had a little girl, Chanel, who was teensy. She was much thinner and smaller than her younger sister. In fact we called her Pencil because that is how she looked, except she was also short. She was so short that at her elementary graduation, I looked across the auditorium and spotted her in the crowd and said, “How come Chanel is sitting with the high school?” I didn’t understand why all her friends were a few inches taller than she was. That is when I realized how truly short she was. I had to order custom high school uniforms for her because they didn’t make them that small. (I also had to special-order tiny underwear for her when she was two years old.)  

Anyway… throughout her childhood, every single night at supper, I would put out the serving bowls, then ask each child what they wanted. “Shula, rice? Meat ball? Salad? Hindel, rice? meat ball? salad?” and down the line, filling their plates with whatever they wanted. When I would get to Chanel, and I would list the options for her, she would always reply the same thing, night after night: “Just a drink.” Except she didn’t say R so it came out, “Just a dwink.” She was the cutest thing. I would fill her cup and keep moving with the serving of supper. Even at six years old she was a smart, mentally mature little person and I knew she would eat what she needed, when she needed. I trusted her to know her own body better than I could know it. (By the way she would eat a few bites for breakfast and a few bites for lunch. It was just supper that she skipped completely.)

This continued until one day in the ninth grade Chanel came home in her tiny custom-made high school uniform and said words I had never heard before: “Ma, I’m hungry.” She then went to the freezer and took out a loaf of Sova whole wheat bread and a package of cheese. She made herself three grilled cheese sandwiches, six slices of bread, and sat down and ate them all. (I just stared.) She began doing this every day after school. That year, she grew five inches. At her high school graduation, she was three inches taller than me. She’s been eating well ever since. I am so glad I trusted her.

5- What does a general picture of dinner time look like in your house (with lots of kids at the table) [is it buffet? is all food put on the table? do certain kids set the table and others do the dishes?] Just a general idea will do

I would usually put the food on the table and a stack of plates, forks, etc. We would sit down together and I would serve each child (when they were little). When they reached the age of about eight, they could help themselves, but we did sit together and talk. We had “jobs” – different kids doing different jobs in the house. I wasn’t so great at enforcing them but I did my best and the kids turned into pretty nice adults B”H. I am not prejudiced at all, really I’m not!

6- Do you have any help when preparing dinner (someone who cuts and peels etc.) if not, do the kids help make dinner

I had one daughter, Hindel, who was particularly gifted in the kitchen department. I would very often collect the ingredients onto the counter and leave it for her to put together. She had a small repertoire of suppers that she could make from the age of about ten. She could make chicken with potatoes and onions (in one big roasting pan); she could make a fresh salad and dressing; she could make French toast; she could make anything I showed her how to make. It was fair because she didn’t have other jobs in the house such as childcare, sweeping, clearing, etc. 

Then I had another daughter Shula who had (still has) the unusual ability to do tiny, careful work with her hands. She would make, for example, a layered salad in a glass truffle bowl that was gorgeous and delicious; it took her two hours sometimes to make it. But she seemed happy doing it, so fine. I had another daughter, Zeesy, who was very independent. She decided one fine day that she wanted to start baking challah (we had always bought) and she could figure it out from the diagrams in the purple cookbook. And she did. She taught her sister and on down the line and now they all teach their women in their Chabad Houses how to make challah.

Leah (another daughter) was very careful and exact. If I asked her to make seven dozen rugelach, her last one looked exactly like her first one. It was amazing. She never got lazy with it no matter the quantity. Then there’s Mirel. She blows me away because she’ll open a magazine or cookbook, spot a complicated, ten-step recipe that to me is totally Greek, and casually say, “I think I can make this.” And then she does. Who gave birth to her?

7- In regard to salads- so you have a large salad every night with dinner? If so, is it the same salad every night and who prepares it?

We did have a fresh salad most nights. Not every single. Am I under oath? Sometimes I would make frozen vegetables. I admit it. The kids only liked them with shredded cheese and salt.

8- What time of day do you make dinner

I always found that as long as supper ingredients are lined up on the counter, and there’s a clear and reasonable plan, I am unstressed about it. So I try to line them up early in the day. Putting it all together is the easy part. It’s the buying/gathering of ingredients that stresses me.

9- Do you ever serve (or even HAVE) left overs and do you ever cook and freeze

You’re kidding, right? Of COURSE I serve leftovers! I love leftovers. Sunday night for sure, hopefully Monday night too. The key to having people enjoy and want your leftovers is to heat them up properly, so they don’t get dried out or taste gross. Sometimes I’ll fry the leftovers. That always works. I’m not a big freezer person but sometimes I’ll make a huge vegetable soup or several roasts and freeze them in smaller containers. When I need them, I sure am happy I did it.

Sometimes I make lots of supper (four chickens, five pounds of green beans, ten pounds of potatoes) thinking I’ll have enough for two nights but then it goes in one night. Oh well. As long as it goes to give the people I love and care about the energy to live good and happy lives, I would be an idiot to complain.

And there you have it-
For those of you who have the whole dinner thing/menu plan under control, I take my hat off to you. For those of you who are still trying to figure it out, just know that you are not alone! 
Thanks again aunt Rishe for your great advice and sharing your personal experiences with us.

Wishing you all a wonderful week,

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Don't lose sight of the Ultimate Goal...

Hillel taught: what is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor; this is the whole Torah and the rest is just commentary.

As homeschooling moms we all want to do our best to educate our kids. We make routines, set up schedules, make menu plans, make sure to daven with them, learn, teach them to read and write, do fun science projects, take them on trips and whatever we can possibly do to help their little brains grow.

This weekend we went away to a big city where my kids were with lots of other kids and around lots of other adults. One of the mothers came over to me while our kids were playing and says, 'your kids are so nice! Do they ever fight?" I laughed (really loudly!) and said yes, they do indeed fight. A lot, actually!

But then I gave myself a pat on the back (and my hubby too) and realized that as much as I doubt myself and constantly worry and try to always figure this whole parenting and homeschooling thing out, my husband and I are raising NICE kids. Kids who are nice to other kids. Kids who don't call other kids names or make fun of them. Kids who include others in their games, kids who speak respectfully to adults. Kids who respect others and respect themselves. 

We cant stop our kids from fighting, but we can set up certain lines that cannot be crossed when they fight. An example in our house is no name calling and you cant use the "H" word (hate). We actually all sat down one day and made "Our Family Rules" together at the kitchen table. Here is what we came up with and every time another mom comes over she asks me to email her a copy! I printed it out and laminated it and its up front and center in our kitchen.

And no, my kids don't keep all the rules all the time, but when a rule is broken we go over to the poster and point it out- "remember, it says no running in the house, lets find somewhere else to run," or an appropriate consequence is given.

Yes, I hope my kids excel academically and continue to enjoy their learning path. And yes, I hope that they are successful in their schooling. But to me, success will be seeing my children in healthy relationships, making healthy choices and living a spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically healthy life.

So while we are busy planning their curriculum and making sure they know their Alef Bet, don't forget to treat them with respect, don't forget to discipline them with love, don't forget to speak to your spouse with respect and to argue with them in front of your kids- yes, I said that. Because if your kids see their parents disagree in a healthy way and then see them resolve a situation, this will model how to disagree respectfully and then come up with resolutions.

We are with our kids ALL the time- when they see the way we interact with them, our spouses and other people, that is a model for them. If we are nice and treat people with respect, yet at the same time be assertive and put up healthy boundaries, this will be our kids first lesson in dealing with others.

I have lots of goodies up ahead to share with you,
Enjoy the rest of your week!

Great New Parsha Coloring Pages

I wanted to let you know about a fabulous new Parsha resource that is being developed. 

I love using the free and adorable coloring pages from (I use all their Alef Bet pages, you can check them out here) has launched a kickstarter campaign to raise money to make a more updated version of weekly Parsha coloring pages. Their goal is to raise enough money to make 54 sheets -- one for each Parsha. Be a part of this amazing project and help make it happen! 

Have a wonderful week,

Monday, February 17, 2014

Its all about the Skills

 "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." 

The same goes for teaching our kids the skills they need to learn how to learn and to learn how to think.

 Today, so many parents think that we need to give our children more and more to help them succeed. 

It is in fact the opposite. 

 Maria Montessori noted that the skills children need in order to learn are order, concentration, coordination and independence. 

Order: Children need a sense of order in their lives by having order around them as well as a routine. As a parent it is our job to ensure an orderly learning environment for them as well as set up a healthy daily routine that gives them a sense of how their days will flow. This gives them the ability to concentrate and focus.

Concentration: If we see our child busy with something, even if the 'schedule' says its time for something else, if the child is in a zone of concentration, respect that zone and let them do it for as long as they can. This is so healthy for their concentration. Another way to help them develop good concentration skills is to have as few distractions around their learning environment as possible. A room with lots of posters and bright pictures may look pretty and productive on your part, but it is very distracting for a child. The less distractions, the better it is for their concentration.

Coordination: Kids need lots of practice to build the muscles for the pincer grip needed for writing. They also need practice to develop eye/hand coordination. Very often we find children in elementary school who don’t have the endurance to write. Refining the fine motor skills at a young age is crucial in developing good hand writing skills.

Independence: Self-confidence, via independence, is one of the true gifts we can give a child. The more your child can do on their own, the better it is for both you and them. The key is to teach your child to not only be independent, but to give them the ability to think for themselves and discover things by themselves. Kids need freedom with a sense of responsibility. 

It is not our job to spoon feed information to our kids. It is our job to help them build up their wings, develop the necessary skills to be able to think and learn on their own, so at the right time, they can just fly as high as they possibly can.

Have a wonderful week,

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

And the Giveaway Winners are...

You will each be e-mailed a copy of Home Field Advantage- A Guide to Teaching Methods for Your Homeschooling Champions by Skyla King-Christison. 

Enjoy and Congrats!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Welcome Home and Giveaway!

This past week I was away, for eight days. Yes, just me, alone, solo, for eight days in New York City spending time with my amazing family and friends and some incredible women from all over the world attending the annual Chabad Women's Gathering.

Whats so great about getting away by yourself (aside for being able to watch an entire movie on the plane and just needing one carry on which consisted of my hand bag) is being able to take a step out of your life and look at it from the outside.

I was able to see the things I wanted to work on or change as well as continue the things that are working well.

I attended some great homeschooling workshops and learned a lot from some other really great homeschooling moms, and I plan to share what I learned soon on this blog.

But whats great about coming back from these trips is that I come back with a tremendous sense of clarity and am always so excited to get back into my real life and implement what I have learned.

I received a wonderful book a few weeks ago called Home Field Advantage- A Guide to Teaching Methods for Your Homeschooling Champions by Skyla King-Christison.

We all want to homeschool our kids with the best method that works for us as well as our kids. There is no WRONG way to homeschool.

The book starts off by talking about why Homeschooling may be a better option, so for those that did not choose this, it really helps you to see and understand the benefits of homeschooling.

It then lists in detail the different methods and options of homeschooling: from Montessori, to Waldorf to Uncschooling and more.

It talks about the different types of children and different styles of learning and how you can figure out your childs personality type and how to work with your childs temperament at home.

There is an entire section on designing and planning a tailored home education and homeschooling plan, how to put it together step by step. And then shows you how to design your homeschool environment.

This is a fabulous book for homeschoolers everywhere and I am excited to let you know that FIVE lucky readers will receive one copy of  a Home Field Advantage e-book by entering the Giveaway below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For those who just cant wait, CLICK HERE to pick up a copy for yourself and any other friends you know who homeschool their kids.

Good Luck and in the weeks to come I look forward to sharing some jewels of inspiration and information as well as some fabulous interviews from some incredible women that I met on my trip!

Have a wonderful week and a Happy Adar!
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