Monthly Archives: August 2013

When someone is in crisis – how to not say the wrong thing

I’ve had my share of annoying, upsetting and deeply irritating things that have been said to me at sensitive times.  Sometimes I wondered if this was inevitable, since people can’t know what you’re feeling if they haven’t been through a situation you’re going through.  When a psychologist friend sent me the following article today, which makes what not to say to someone in crisis pretty easy to figure out.

Go read it – it will just take a few minutes and it gives a helpful strategy for determining appropriate guidelines.  Will it keep you from ever saying the wrong thing?  Probably not.  But it will make it much less likely that you’ll say the wrong thing to the person in crisis.


Parsha leining resource

This year I discovered a wonderful new resource online that we’re already enjoying!  This resource is online leining (reading with traditional chant) of the weekly Torah portion.

Here’s how I use this: I have the kids ages 7 – 12 (those who are competent Hebrew readers) sit on the couch with a chumash and they each follow along with the text as they listen to it being read aloud.  In this way they hear the parsha while strengthening their Hebrew reading skills, at the same time developing familiarity and comfort not only with Torah portion but with following along.  This is good preparation for being in services on Shabbos mornings when this is read.

My intention is for them to do this each week, so that when we get to Shabbos they’ve each listened to/read the entire parsha.


Activities to keep the littles occupied while homeschooling

Just before lunch time today I got a call from the city’s truant officer.  He said the schools have reported that my kids never showed up.  I sighed and told him that months ago I sent in my paperwork, before the school year I spoke to the Karmiel city representative who is handling this who told me she received my homeschooling request with the accompanying paperwork from the central norther office and she’ll get back to me to schedule a home visit (prerequisite to receive the permit), and that I notified the principal of the boys’ school months ago, before I ever sent in my paperwork.  We had a short but pleasant conversation during which my kids fortunately were relatively quietly occupied.

Below is a list of different ideas of activities to keep your young children occupied while you take care of other things – like the dishes or helping an older child.  I’ve used most of these ideas over the years; some I’ve done a lot of, others hardly at all.  I made this list for myself I pulled this list out again when thinking about how to occupy ds4  and ds6 constructively.  They aren’t tiny anymore, but they still need to be constructively occupied or things get wild very quickly.  Most of these activities work well for kids in the 2 – 6 age range (and even above); I vary the offering according to ability (eg a toddler gets a very simple puzzle, a six year old gets a 100 piece puzzle).

I’m not a fan of structured curriculum for young children, and this list is chock full of meaningful learning activities and skill development.  Remember – don’t get caught up thinking that if it’s fun it’s not learning!  It’s exactly the opposite; the more fun they’re having the more primed they are for learning. And particularly in the earlier years, you can easily learn just about anything with hands on activities and games.

  • cutting and pasting activities – shapes
  • games
  • puzzles
  • playdough (you can make it together from scratch for added fun)
  • audiobooks
  • educational videos
  • outdoor play
  • read books together
  • string and beads – you can also string pasta shapes, straws (smaller items better for older kids with more advance fine motor skills)
  • rice and measuring cups – you can also set up a pouring station with water, cups and a pitcher (I do this on my porch in warm weather)
  • lacing cards – you can make your own using oaktag of thin foam, punching holes around the edges with a hole punch
  • dominoes
  • bubbles – my kids have used who knows how many bottle of dish soap creating their own bubbles, and this has occupied them at time for hours
  • blocks – foam, wood, Duplo, Lincoln Logs, bristle blocks
  • coloring – use different kinds of crayons, markers, chalk – if you have the outdoor space then chalk is particularly fun
  • geoboards and colored rubber bands (I have a five point board for little kids, eleven point board for older kids)
  • pattern blocks
  • teddy bear counters (my kids like to use them when building to stand in as people)
  • felt board set
  • magnets with baking pan – I picked up a small cookie sheet for this at a thrift store for a nominal price
  • sorting activities (tricolored noodles, silverware, anything you can mix up and have them group) – for added fine motor development you can give your child a pair or salad tongs or a tweezer to pick up the items

I know that some of you reading have great ideas that aren’t listed here, so please share them with us!


‘Not back to school’ week – wonderful!

As of this week, all the local schools are now in session.  Today I was musing to myself about how very contented with life I felt, with homeschooling particularly.   Suddenly I feel like I’m reclaiming the quality of my life again, and it’s just the first week!

This morning we enjoyed a family breakfast once everyone was dressed and ready to start their day.  Ds11 made eggs for each person while ds7 chopped cucumbers and ds6 chopped tomatoes for a salad (salad for breakfast – very Israeli of me, isn’t it?).  This was so much nicer than rushing to get sandwiches prepared for the day and searching for this one’s shoes and that one’s permission slip and rush, rush, rush.  I often looked around at other parents rushing to take their little children to school in the morning, rushing to pick them up, rushing, rushing, rushing….and I wondered, are other people also thinking that this feels insane, do they wish they had an alternative?

It’s amazing to see the kids’ interest and even excitement about learning shooting up – each morning they tell me what they want to learn about that day and I try to follow through with that.  This has been a wonderful way to segue from the school mindset they were in.  I mentioned in a recent post that I’ve been using amazing programs from Discovery Education that I’m accessing via a trial subscription for educators that are so engaging and informative.  (It’s so good that I just purchased access for the year, there are loads more resources than what I’ve had time for so far – if you’re interested you can get 60% off the direct purchase price by buying through Homeschool Buyer’s Coop, which is free to join.  I don’t invest in many things so you know that I’m excited about this!)   The visual presentations have been a really good hook to get the kids interested in a topic and then we go into more depth.

For example, we watched a kids program about famous people – this particular one was about Galileo.  I followed this up with ds11 and dd12 with learning about his book, Galileo’s Dialogue, and understanding his theory about the universe more fully.  It’s interesting how many famous people suffered terribly for their beliefs and many didn’t enjoy the golden place in history when alive that they had after death.  We then learned about space, the universe, black holes (dd connected this to past reading of a Wrinkle In Time) and lots of other fascinating things, none of which have been topics that I’ve explored much in the past.  When dh took the kids on an evening hike yesterday, ds11 took along the binoculars, since he had learned that the strength of Galileo’s telescope that he built was about the same as a pair of binoculars and he wanted to see what was viewable in the skies at night.  (Of course for years I had a telescope in my garage in the US and no one had any interest in it – probably because I never opened up any topics relating to its use!)

It’s fascinating how so many things tie together, and I love seeing the kids beginning to make connections – this morning ds4 excitedly brought me a book we’d never read before with a page about the first man to fly and an illustration of the early airplane, and said, “We learned about this!”  (He recognized the airplane from our learning about Orville and Wilbur Wright.)

The mother of a former classmate of ds7 called yesterday to find out why he wasn’t in school, and when I said he was homeschooling she caught me by surprise with her immediate response about how she’s always wished she could do that since she thinks it’s the ideal!  This is an atypical response for an Israeli (at least I thought it was), and she told me she did parenting classes in Israel based on Gordon Neufeld’s approach so homeschooling was very much in line with this.  It was nice to find a like-minded mom, and then when I went to the park just an hour later I had another nice conversation with another Israeli mother. After her initial disbelief that I was keeping a four year old home (then I told her I was keeping them all home), she went on to tell me all the problems with schools and why what I was doing was such a good thing.  Far from the negativity I’ve been anticipating.

In the US I had just two negative conversations out of probably hundreds of conversations about homeschooling (notably both of those were newly married young adults without children).  Despite years of positive, even glowing feedback at times, here in Israel I’ve minimized and even avoided discussing our plans to homeschool, thinking that with Israeli society having such an emphasis on the collective group over the individual that my days of pleasant conversations were probably over.  These conversations reminded me of something I often told homeschooling parents, that how you present yourself very much affects the response you get. People may not have experience with it, they may think it’s crazy and they’d never want to do it, but if they have a willingness to hear another person’s perspective, you can have a respectful and positive discussion.

So it’s nice to be back in the proverbial saddle; I’ve had some anxiety regarding this decision but that has been fading away pretty quickly once we got started and were able to once again experience the quality of a homeschooling life.  I’m really grateful.


Some recent choices for our booklist

I often mention how  much I love reading with the kids, and the older kids all have daily mandatory reading time of books on my approved list.   I’ve been asked several times for a list of books I recommend, but I’ve never written out a list so I can’t do that!

Instead of being a perfectionist and not sharing a list because it’s not comprehensive at all, I’ll share about the books that I loaded onto the Kindle for ds11 and dd12 earlier in the week.  All of the books I got were via Project Gutenberg and therefore free in the public domain.  These are mostly older books which is fine because I like the classics because the language isn’t dumbed down and the ideas tend to be more stimulating than contemporary books (I’m obviously generalizing, because pulp fiction has always been around so there are insipid books from a hundred years ago, too). This isn’t an extensive list of books I recommend, just books that I put on the Kindle that night.

There are loads more amazing books that are more current that I get from the library (eg Newberry books, Narnia series, Little House series) I’ll list authors rather than books when it’s a writer who we’ve read more than a few of their books, and I’ll loosely put them in order of difficulty:

  • Arthur Scott Bailey – lots of books in this series
  • Thorton Burgess – lots of books in this series
  • Tom Swift series – lots of books in series
  • Margaret Sidney – Pepper series
  • Lewis Carrol (Alice in Wonderland)
  • Horatio Alger – lots of books in series
  • Rudyard Kipling
  • Louisa May Alcott
  • Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens


Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
The Secret Garden
A Little Princess – one of my all time favorites
Understood Betsy – another all time favorite
Robinson Crusoe
Swiss Family Robinson

As I said, there are loads more books that could be added to this list and it still would be far from complete, but this is a partial answer and gives you an idea of the kind of writing that I like the kids to have exposure to on a regular basis.


Dd17 left for seminary today

Well, today marks the end of one stage of life and the beginning of another.  We now have just six children living at home.

I woke up early this morning in order to walk with dd17 to the bus stop, where she caught the bus to Jerusalem.  Her seminary begins tomorrow, and she wanted to go in today in order to buy her uniform and to get settled at the place she’ll be living/working.  I haven’t been able to even think about her leaving without getting teary-eyed, so I’ve coped with this by trying to avoid thinking about it.  But you can’t avoid reality forever.

So she left and yes, I cried when I walked her there and I keep getting a big lump in my throat and getting choked up every time I think of her not living at home now.  To have four of the older kids out of the house is a really, really big deal.  That creates a different home dynamic, which I think will be good for dd12 and ds11 in particular, as it gives them the chance to move from being the middle children to being the oldest in the house.  But it’s a transition that will take some time as they move from the more passive roles of a child who knows their older siblings will do what needs to be done (the work and the fun) into the active roles of becoming the older siblings.

That’s the positive of it.  But honestly it’s hard.  You spend years raising children and as they get older, they get so amazing and such a joy to have around.  They develop a maturity in thinking and processing, and you understand one another in a more mature way.  They start to notice things around the house that need to be done and pitch in without having jobs detailed for them, wanting to help out and noticing how much their parents do.  They become strong role models for younger siblings.   I’ve been incredibly blessed with children who are quite honestly amazing people whose company I truly enjoy.

Though I very much miss dd18, I’ve mostly gotten used to her not being home.  I’ve been used to ds20 being gone for quite some time already.  But right now, I haven’t made the mental adjustment to having ds14 and dd17 gone, and the house feels different without them here.  It’s been two weeks since ds14 went to his dormitory (he’s been home twice already) but in the late afternoons, I still keep expecting ds14 to walk in the door.  Tonight I made a nice dinner (usually our main meal is lunch and dinner is very simple) and thought to myself, “Dd17 and ds14 will really appreciate this” and then a moment later I remembered that they won’t be home for dinner.  Especially with my husband having recently been gone for four months, these two children really stepped up to run things with me in his absence, and our relationships became even stronger as a result.

I’m feeling a strong sense of loss at the same time that I’m happy that they’re moving on with their lives and doing what they need to be doing now.  But never let it be said that this is easy.


Listening to audiobooks when child is a late reader

>>Could you please give me your take on this? Our son is barely reading in Hebrew, after a long journey. He is 8 years old. I see lots of audio books available in English but not in Hebrew. I am trying to teach him to read Hebrew first, as we live here (Avivah- in Israel). But I feel like he is not getting enough reading for the other reasons we have our children read. I mean, the skill of reading is one thing, but the mind opening, exploration and thinking challenges that one encounters in a good book are not there. I feel he’s missing out. So, I am perplexed- to jump a border and give him audio books in English, before or without teaching him to read English? I am not on a proficient level to read him the Hebrew books his siblings were reading at his age and I do not know where I would find the time for it anyway. As of now, when we learn in the mornings most of the texts are in Hebrew and we get through it, but after his siblings school hours when I read to them it’s in English. Do you see this gap I am concerned about?<<

This question makes me think how easy it is even as homeschoolers to get trapped in a linear way of thinking regarding learning that is typical in schools but not reflective of natural learning at all!

Listening to audio books isn’t about reading skills but about listening skills, expanding vocabulary, exploring new ideas and concepts, developing concentration abilities…and about having fun while doing all of that! Listening to books being read aloud isn’t going to detract from anything else and will only enhance his learning and enjoyment of a language. This is even more important when a child is struggling with reading – imagine if anything fun we wanted to do was linked to us performing in our weakest area up to someone else’s predetermined standard. For example, what if your husband said to you, “We won’t take a walk together until you’ve planned all the meals for the rest of the month.” What’s the connection?! It certainly wouldn’t be motivating and your relationship would be limited because of these criteria!

We speak to babies even though they don’t know how to read, right? It’s the same thing with older kids! There are communication and relationship benefits for the mother and child when reading together, or for a child to independently listen to recorded books. These are so important that I would cut out the time spent on technical studies in the morning to create time to read together if there’s no other time in the day.

For the record, I don’t consider eight especially late to be reading. I think if we changed our expectations for when kids needed to learn to read and gave them some more time to develop readiness, taking into account different learning styles and other factors, we’d see the rate of supposed learning disabilities drop dramatically. My dd17 is an auditory learner who didn’t teach herself to read until eight. (Long term blog readers know that I don’t teach reading but wait for readiness and help the kids with sounds when they ask; my first seven kids have learned to read English on their own in this way and our next auditory learner was also on the late side.) When she was in prekindergarten her teacher was already telling me she wasn’t picking up the letters fast enough and that I needed to do homework every night so she wouldn’t be behind when she got to kindergarten. That was before we began homeschooling but I rolled my eyes at that even then. I’ve often thought how critical homeschooling was since as a late reader in school she would have gotten the message early on that she wasn’t so bright or even had learning disabilities.

In fact, she had nothing of the sort and just needed a little more time. She’s the same daughter who just got the highest score on her aptitude testing for a mathematical field of all the girls testing at that seminary, and as a new immigrant here less than two years had scores on her Israeli high school matriculation exams to rival the top students in her class, while simultaneously studying for the tests of the grade she was in and the grade she skipped. (Her high school doesn’t have experience with new immigrants and these scores were in spite of the fact she didn’t get the leniencies in testing that she was entitled to.) The girls in her class couldn’t understand how she could do so well and a couple told her she was ‘lucky she was so smart’. More like, she was lucky not to spend her formative school years feeling dumb. I highly doubt she would be the student she is now if her identity early on had been of an academically slow learner.

Back to the question. No, I don’t see any gap or reason for concern. Any kind of books that your child hears read aloud, either in English or Hebrew, will benefit him regardless of what language he reads or how well he reads it. If your child does have a learning disability, I think it’s really important that you find ways for learning to be fun. Limit the frontal learning as much as possible and look for different ways to help him develop thinking skills, gather information, etc. Reading is an important part of learning but by no means the only way. Your son is blessed that he has a mother who cares so much about helping him overcome his weaknesses and at the same time, has the flexibility and desire to find ways for him to be successful outside of mainstream definitions of educational success.

If any of my readers are aware of audiobooks or stories in Hebrew, phone lines with recorded stories, etc, please share those here! This is particularly helpful for English speakers in Israel who want their children to enhance their language comprehension, along with those who are studying Hebrew outside of Israel. Thanks!


Two year aliyah anniversary – today!

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been exactly two years since we arrived in Israel!  I have such clear memories of that day – being met at the airport by a couple we knew from Baltimore (bless them for caring enough to make the effort!), loading all of our thirty boxes into two huge vans that we rented, the long drive on a blistering hot summer day with less than a liter of water for us all to share, arriving in Karmiel and thinking what a pretty street it was when we drove in.  Then standing outside our apartment building in the hot sun waiting for the real estate agent to come with the key so we could get into our new home, the neighbor across the street who saw us and hurried out to greet us and offer us water, and the agent who arrived with the key and told  me before I even entered the house that I needed to go to some government offices with her to transfer the utilities into our name (I told her I wanted to run in and take a quick look around before going out with her, so I had a thirty second glimpse of our new home before rushing out).  I wouldn’t agree to something like that again; thinking back it seems insane but I was going with what was asked of me.

We arrived on a Thursday afternoon to a home with no furniture, no appliances and no one to welcome us.   The water in the house had been turned off and it took some time until we figured out how to get it on again.  (Did I mention we were parched and desperate for a drink?  The new neighbor’s offer of water was a lifesaver.   When the water was finally on, we discovered the tenants had taken the kitchen faucet with them when they left, and when a new faucet was finally installed two weeks later we discovered the pipes were stopped up with hardened plaster that the tenants had apparently washed off their utensils after plastering a wall, not considering what would happen when the water was turned off and it was left to dry in the pipes.

The first thing that hit me when I got there was how filthy everything was, and the older girls went out to buy cleaning supplies – that’s their memory of their first time in our home!  Without a fridge or stove, our food was very simple- we bought bread, butter, yogurts and fresh vegetable twice a day for the first couple of weeks.

We decided to take the kids for a walk to Park Hamishpacha, a beautiful park a five minute walk from our new home that is free to residents of Karmiel.  When we got there, we were denied admission unless we paid since we didn’t have identity cards that showed us having a Karmiel address.  Our explanation that we had just made aliyah several hours before didn’t help, so we continued on our way and found a free park where we could go.  We met a lovely family there who was excited about our aliyah and invited us to spend a Shabbos at their home in Jerusalem.  The father picked a fruit from a prickly pear cactus and shared it with our kids, and ds5 (then almost 4) was so enthusiastic he tried to pick some himself.  :(  That resulted in his hand being filled with tiny hairlike prickles and us exiting the park.

We managed to keep the kids up and outdoors until 8 pm with the hope that we could minimize jet lag.  Everyone was exhausted, and after bedding everyone down into the sleeping bags we brought with us (we used clothing in place of pillows) I stayed up to unpack and organize our boxes.

It was strange coming to a place where it seemed no one cared if we were here or not, even though they knew we were coming.  I’m so happy for those moving to Karmiel that their experience is so different than ours and I don’t think anyone else has had the lack of welcome that we had.  But we were so happy to be here, and we put the challenges to the side as we focused on our gratitude to have been able to move to Israel in what five months before, when we first made the decision to move, had seemed to be an impossible and unrealistic idea.

Over the last two years there have been a lot of challenges.  Looking back, it’s pretty clear that our biggest challenges wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t moved here, some wouldn’t have reached the critical situations they did if we were in the US.  Having said that, we don’t know what difficulties we would have faced if we had stayed in the US and it’s unrealistic to assume that life would have been trouble-free if we hadn’t moved.   Despite all the bumps and challenges, we are all really glad we made the move.

On the anniversary of our second anniversary in Israel, my feeling is that we’re at a transitional point in our lives.  We feel settled in our home here, have made friends, dealt with and overcome medical challenges, have work and are continually growing in our feeling of community.  Our kids have friends and are used to life here, and all either speak or at least understand Hebrew well.  As we begin this year with a return to homeschooling, we have a feeling of hopefulness that we’re leaving behind the intense traumas and difficulties of the past two years and entering a new period of stability, health and abundance in all areas of life!


Updating on miscellaneous goings on :)

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 (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!


Meat and Kohlrabi Stew with Rice

Kohlrabi is one of those vegetables that most people feel intimidated about using!   In the US I hardly ever saw it in stores, but in the Middle East it’s a staple vegetable. It has a mild turnip like flavor and can be used fresh in salads (it’s great as a substitute for cabbage) and cooked in a variety of dishes.  Since it’s often super cheap and at times even free (last week a friend gave me about ten pounds of it!), I’ve looked for different ways to use up the bounty without it becoming redundant and unappealing.

Tonight I made up something new that was a huge hit, so I thought I’d share it with you!  This technically isn’t a stew because you don’t add any liquids, but I couldn’t think of a better title.  :)  If you don’t have kohlrabi, you can substitute cabbage.

Meat and Kohlrabi Stew with Rice

  • 3 large onions, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 kg (2 lb) ground beef
  • 5 large kohlrabis,  peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 1 T. cumin
  • 1 t. tumeric
  • 1/2 t. black pepper
  • salt to taste

Saute the onions and garlic in oil until translucent.  Add in the ground beef, and saute until the beef is cooked through, breaking the meat into crumbles as you cook it.  Add in the kohlrabi and spices, and cover, cooking over a low flame until the kohlrabi cubes are tender.  Serve hot on top of rice for a savory and delicious meal!

(This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays.)