Recently a friend with nine children visited from the US, and she said to me she remembers my stage of life, which was just a few years ago for her, which is so intense because there’s so much going on for all the different kids all the time. It’s definitely been busy and I have so many topics I want to write about but I’m not going to pretend it’s going to happen. It’s not; I just don’t have the time. So I thought I’d do an update post on miscellaneous things around here.
Ds14 – Ds14 is loving yeshiva. I told him on Friday night that something I always felt kind of sorry about was that we moved to Israel right around the age that the older kids got to go to sleepaway summer camp for a month. I know he would have loved it. He told me that this yeshiva feels like camp to him – a warm family feeling, lots of serious learning, great meals, sports and lots of camaraderie. He comes home every Thursday night and leaves Sunday morning, so we still get to see him a good amount. It’s still an adjustment to have him gone; the house really feels different without him.
Two weeks before school began, he was sent math paperwork with a note that it was recommended to prepare the material before getting to school, since they’d be tested and put into levels dependent on the testing. He literally didn’t have any time until after 11 pm on any given day and couldn’t prepare at all. He subsequently got a very low score when he did the introductory testing and was put into the lower math class. That was Thursday. On Monday the mathteacher didn’t come and rather than have a free period, he asked the teacher of the higher level if he could sit in the class. The teacher agreed and afterward ds told him he’d been able to understand everything that was taught and asked to join this class. The teacher refused, citing his low test score, and ds explained that his score was because he didn’t know the material, not for lack of ability to explain the material. As they were talking ds’s gemara rebbe went by and the math teacher asked him how ds was doing. He told him he was a good student’ so the math teacher agreed to allow ds a trial period in the higher math class. Ds applied himself and within three days the math teacher not only was okay with having him there, but was very impressed with his work. That’s what intrinsic motivation looks like.
Dd17 – she is currently running a two week camp for children under age 6 and the last day will be tomorrow. That gives her just one free day before she leaves on Wednesday to Jerusalem to settle in. Seminary classes begin on Thursday and though we’d love it if she could come home every week, it’s not going to be possible with the requirements of the job she’s taken. She’s free on Shabbos but needs to be there by Saturday night and we just live too far away for her to make the trip every week. So she’ll be looking for places to spend Shabbos in the Jerusalem area. I hope she’ll be able to come home twice a month for Shabbos. I’m not thinking about her leaving; it’s way too emotional.
Dd12 – two days ago she told me wants to go back to school. I told her I need to be convinced it’s in her best interest and she needs to put together a presentation to show me how my concerns will be met. I’d love to tell myself school is the best thing for her since it will make my life easier in some ways, but I don’t believe it is and think it’s selfish of me to let her go to school and miss the many opportunities of homeschooling in just about every area of life that will have a long term impact on the person she becomes.
Yesterday she was out walking with friends and discovered that the word is officially out about her homeschooling, since a few girls she met asked her if the rumor they heard is true. I’ve kept my intentions very quiet for a number of months and just recently spoken more openly about it, though still only to limited people. It’s not easy for her to answer questions like this since she’s not feeling delighted about this decision. I myself don’t really want to talk about it, either – I’d rather spend my time and energy on homeschooling than talking about it.
A couple of days ago I received some educational materials that I ordered back in May, basically a few manipulatives and some flashcards! This morning the boys ages 4, 5 and 7 spent the first two hours after waking up playing with pattern blocks (I got another two sets) and backpack bear counters. We had breakfast, and then watched a Magic School Bus program about sea life, followed by a BBC program about fish.
Thanks to a complimentary summer subscription to Discovery education, I temporarily have access to amazing educational videos (and lots of other stuff but haven’t had time to explore it much) until the end of August. I’ve decided to maximize this opportunity now as we slowly ease into the ‘school’ year – I’ve never been a fan of one day telling everyone to take out workbooks and start doing school. It just doesn’t match my beliefs about education or style of learning.
I’ve used videos extremely sparingly over the years, but can see some ways in which we can boost the natural and meaningful learning with them. I’m amazed at how much the kids have learned in just a week of doing this, and how what they’ve learned extends into other areas – we had some very interesting discussions on Shabbos with contributions from the younger set that were quite intelligent. Yesterday I took out the box of science and social studies flash cards that I recently bought, and when they looked at the animal cards they could recognize just about everything, even the animals that were uncommon or unusual. I’ll miss having access to this program when it’s finished – they also have teacher’s lesson plans and lots of other resources connected to each program, so when watching a program about the Artic and Antarctic, I was able to have dd12 and ds11 copy ten questions before the program began into their science notebooks and then answer them as they were watching. It made them watch more carefully for details.
I had the kids start science notebooks after ds7 asked me when we were going to start school. Most of his friends went back to school over a week ago, so I had them start notebooks because it feels schooly. But we’re doing it in a fun way – when we learned about insects, they each drew a sample insect, labeling the different sections of an insect’s body. Ds11 wrote a list of the qualifications for an insect to be categorized as such; with each topic we learn about he details more specifics than the younger kids, who mostly draw a picture to represent what they learned about. It’s pretty relaxed and they like seeing their ‘work’.
Now the kids are having quiet play time while Mozart plays in the background, and then we’ll have lunch and go to the park for outdoor play for a couple of hours later in the day or else take a walk to visit friends. Somewhere along the way they’ll help me get a meal ready, we’ll read some books, and I told ds5 that they could do Starfall.com (online phonics program) – and by the time the day is over, they’ll have done math, reading, science, physical education and music -all more extensively than if they were in a classroom but without even realizing it!
In the meantime, ds11 is exploring the Kindle I got for him – last night I loaded almost fifty books that all are appropriate for mandatory daily reading (they can read what they want during their free reading time). I got a Kindle for him and dd12, since we don’t have the kind of access to print books here that I’d like, so this way we don’t have to limit the daily reading that was an integral part of the kids schedules for years. I looked for an edition that can also play audiobooks out loud, since I have to load them from the library onto my computer and then the kids have to take turns listening to the books that interest them most. Like this, the older two kids can listen to the books of their choice with headphones and it frees up the computer; I don’t like the kids sitting around the computer even if it’s just to listen to stories. They also discovered that most books on the Kindle can be read aloud in an automated voice even if we don’t load the specialized audiobooks – not as interesting to listen to as an audiobook, but ds just started listening to Little Men and doesn’t seem to mind the tinny computerized kind of voice. (He just thanked me for getting this book for him since it’s so interesting!)
Yirmiyahu – has been overtired and wanting to be held lots for the last week or two. I finally realized that I needed to actively take some steps to help him get more sleep since he’s getting used to people holding him until he falls asleep. He has lots of loving siblings who don’t like to let him cry and will pick him up as soon as he whimpers, and as wonderful as this sounds, it was getting in the way of a normal sleeping schedule. Yesterday I put him in when he was tired, not overtired, let him cry for a few minutes in his crib and he slept soundly for two hours. Later he again took a normal nap, then slept a normal amount in the nighttime. Today he’s again napping appropriate amounts and not getting to that extremely exhausted stage Wow. So nice to have him well-rested and cheerful again, and sleeping instead of having an increasingly drawn face and red eyes. And it’s nice to have the quiet time when he’s napping to do something else. Now I have to keep his siblings out of the room when he’s sleeping so he doesn’t get prematurely woken up – since we moved the bedrooms around a couple of weeks ago, this has become much more challenging since their room is next to his.
I discovered yesterday that Yirmiyahu knows how to crawl forward when he’s motivated. He hid that quite well from us! He prefers sitting or standing and resists being put on his stomach. I realized he finds the hard floor tiling uncomfortable and that’s a big part of why he moves into a sitting position immediately when put down so last week I brought a foam mattress into the living room for him to play on. Much better.
Me – I’m beginning to plan our homeschooling schedule for the coming year. I was somewhat resistant to thinking about this since I felt some apprehensions about homeschooling the coming year. It’s going to be an intense and labor intensive year for me with all the older kids gone, and in many ways will be like homeschooling for the first time with some added challenges we’ve never had before. There is going to be a real acclimatization process going on for everyone and I’m going to need to be very available physically and emotionally for this to be a positive experience for us all. Since I’ve been through an intense two years with the last six months being extremely intense, I didn’t feel like I had any fresh energy and motivation.
I finally accepted that it’s okay to not feel fully enthusiastic about homeschooling right now. Doing the right thing doesn’t always feel good but just discomfort doesn’t mean it’s the wrong thing. Funny how once I gave myself permission to say there are things I’m not looking forward to, I started looking forward to homeschooling again! I’m also acting in line with one of my personal mottos, “Just do it!” I know that when I think too much I can get caught up in negative thoughts or fears, but when I take action that clears away and my energy shifts to a good place. So easing into the relaxed kind of homeschooling schedule I described above has been nice for me as well since it’s helped me do something and enjoy being with the kids rather than think about doing something!