Monthly Archives: September 2013

Pre-Rosh Hashana activities with the younger boys

A few days ago, I took the younger three boys (7, 6, 4) to a shofar workshop.  If I had realized what it was going to be, I would have taken ds11 as well, but I thought it wouldn’t be suitable for him.

This wonderful workshop began with songs and dancing.  This was followed with an explanation about the shofar and why a horn is used.  He brought several musical instruments and demonstrated how they each could make a sound similar to a shofar – why couldn’t they be used?  After explaining this, he showed the group a number of different kinds of animal horns and antlers.

Then he demonstrated how to make a shofar from the horn of an animal (I don’t remember if he said it was a goat?), describing the process and showing the power tools that are used.  He even showed how he takes out the hardened cartilage inside the horn in one big chunk!

This was so interesting and well-done, and I found it fascinating.  He managed to keep a group of about 100 kids interested for over an hour, which was pretty impressive.  I thought it was over, when he told the kids to line up and began distributing horns for each child to make their own shofar!  Each child was given the horn along with a piece of sandpaper, and sanded his horn down.  Then they each had a hole drilled in the mouthpiece and – voila- they each had their own shofar!  Really informative, interesting and fun!

Then on Friday afternoon, I took the same boys to the old age home for a pre-Rosh Hashana visit.  Dd17 had once taken the boys with her and they found it awkward, since they didn’t know anyone there.  This time we joined three other families and that made what is initially uncomfortable less so.  The children gave out greeting cards that had been prepared the day before (preceding the shofar making workshop) to each senior they saw, wishing them a “Shana tova”, a good new year.  Ds7 was a little nervous about this but did it; ds6 and ds4 stuck close to me holding my hands.  Ds6 did give out a couple of cards.

Then a couple of the fathers sang a Shabbos song and danced with the kids.  After that, we went to the second floor and did the same thing.  On that floor the residents were in worse physical condition than the first floor, and I directed the kids away from a couple of sights that I thought would be too much for them.  I don’t think that next time I would go on this floor with them.  The residents are less present and while I’m sure they appreciated it, the residents on the first floor were much more appreciative, smiling and one woman telling us as we left, “Come back every week!”

It was tough to get out on Friday afternoon when I still had so much to do, but I wanted the kids to have a sense that before Rosh Hashana we can think about what we can do for others, not just ourselves and I was really glad to have done this.  I told the organizer to let me know when they plan to go again, that we’d like to participate when they go again.  Perhaps with time it will become more comfortable to go with just our family.

Then later this afternoon ds11 and ds7 went out for what has become an annual family tradition since moving here – pomegranate picking!  They came home loaded down and tomorrow I’ll sit them down and let them deseed as many as they have the patience for.  :)  A favourite salad that I serve at every meal on Rosh Hashana is pomegranate salad, so we can’t have too many!


Insulting my readers by being so judgmental?

Below is a comment to a recent post about how glad I was to not be sending the kids to school this year.  Every once in a while I get a message like this – the last time was when I wrote about how sad it is that so many babies with T21 are given into foster care – and I’m going to respond to the underlying issue now.

>>I have to admit, I’m starting to feel a bit insulted by your constant bashing of school. I’m sure you don’t mean to come across that way, but lately you seem to have such utter contempt for school- every time you mention school it’s to say how glad you are to be out of that horrible institution and that school is worthless, that kids can only get a REAL education at home.

Well, I disagree. I loved school. My kids, for the most part, enjoy school. School isn’t perfect, but I think there are so many benefits to kids going to school. Homeschooling would be a disaster for our family. My kids and I love eachother, but we don’t want to be together 24/7. I don’t want to teach them math, science, etc. My kids learn things at school that I couldn’t begin to teach them, they have experiences that they could never have at home, and they enjoy the interaction with the other kids in class, on teams, on projects, etc. I think it’s also good for them to learn to get along with and work with people who aren’t related to them. It’s practice for the real life they’ll experience when they finish school. And I think it’s good for them not to have their family to lean on every minute of the day- going to school helps foster a bit of independence.

You look on in horror as people are “always rushing” to drop off and pick up kids to/from school. I don’t think we rush that much. And when we do…it’s not the end of the world. It would never occur to me to pull my kids out of school to avoid rushing. People rush to work, to the drycleaner, to the bank…. going places in a hurry is a part of life. A pain, sure, but let’s not blow things out of proportion.

You always struck me as a nice person, and I’m not trying to attack you. I’m glad homeschooling works so well for your family, and I totally understand while you would blog about that, but please try not to be so patronizing and disapproving of those of us who send our kids to school- and please realize that many of us are thrilled with school and aren’t secretly wishing we could chuck it all and homeschool. It sounds like you pity us all, but we don’t need or want that.<<

First of all, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.  Time is a precious commodity and I appreciate you sharing some of your time with me.

Now about your comment.  You know, I’ve never, ever said in person or in print that everyone should homeschool.  Never, ever, ever.  I don’t believe that.

I try to look for the positives in whatever situation I’m in, and when my kids were in school I focused on the positives of that; some people implied that I was a sell-out to the homeschooling community as a result.  Though I certainly had plenty of material and examples, I chose not to mentally focus on and definitely not to express here how much I felt was lacking in their education.  And I still haven’t.  My approach has from day one when we began homeschooling, to focus on what is good about homeschooling rather than what is lacking in schools.  Maybe that’s why I’ve been able to affect so much change in the perception of homeschooling in the Orthodox world, because I’m not confrontational and I don’t look down on others.  I just share what works for me and why.

So how to respond when someone is bothered me that I’m happy with my personal choice?  When it is assumed that I look on in horror and am patronizing,  disapproving and pitying of anyone who doesn’t make the same choices that I make?

Sometime in the last six months I had a session with an energy counselor.  He is a person of deep intuition and can ‘read’ a person’s energy, and said something very interesting.  He told me that my energy was being sucked out of me by worrying so much about how someone could take any random sentence that I wrote out of context, that I had to stop worrying about ‘being nice’.  And he’s right.  It reaffirmed to me that I need to express myself as honestly and respectfully as I can, and to stop worrying about what people think.  I’m reminded of the following acronym (I don’t remember where I read this since it’s been years, but it might have been Jack Canfield) – SWSWSW – some will, some won’t, so what?  Some will like or dislike you, some won’t, so what?  It’s a freeing way to look at things.

I’m a person with strong convictions and however carefully I may try to share them, my opinions are my own and on my blog I can’t share any positions other than my own.  I’ve tried for years to be truly respectful of others and sometimes I succeed at the deepest levels and sometimes I hardly manage it even at the most superficial levels.  But overall my position in life is that everyone has to live a life that is meaningful to them and I’m not God.  It’s not my job to play judge and jury and determine who is living well and who’s not.  I pretty much assume that everyone is making the choices that work best for them.  It’s hard enough to live my life to the best of my ability and I don’t have energy left over for everyone else’s lives.  When you get too worried about what people think and adjust yourself to suit them, you are crossing the line between being thoughtful to being a codependent people pleaser.   That’s a very bad and unhealthy place to be in.

Here’s a saying that I often tell myself and have found very valuable.  In every situation, you can “take what you like and leave the rest”.  If there’s something here that you like, I’m delighted to have you reading.  If there isn’t, then the internet is overflowing with blogs and articles that will better resonate with what you’re looking for.  I’m not interested in raising ratings with controversies, I don’t care about how many people read or not – my goal is to share authentically with the intent to help others and I’d rather have a smaller readership who is benefiting  or finding reading here a positive experience than many more readers who don’t connect to what I share.

If I express my happiness in living my life in line with my values and that’s disturbing to someone, I guess I’ll have to accept that even though I wish it was different.  My life is my choice and your life is your choice, and I’m very able to differentiate between my choices and your choices.  You can’t please all the people all the time, and you can’t even please some of the people all of the time.