Sunday, November 23, 2008

Our Week of Learning

I love my job. I love my job. I love my job. There. Just had to get it out of my system. :)

We had a nicely busy week, just humming along. The S Family came over one night and we did a slide show of their recent trip to Israel. Very fun to see pictures of their trip and share in the adventure. It was also lovely to daydream about taking our whole family some day, BE"H. After the Israel slides, we screened one of the episodes from Blue Planet. Breathtaking. We love this whole series. Did you know a coral reef releases its eggs and sperm in one big orchestrated evening every year? The closeup video they had of the eggs being released really took our breath away. Now for the nitty-gritty.

Still just status quo, same as the last two weeks. Last week and in the coming week (and probably the next!) we'll have a focused effort put into the words of Een Kelokeinu - understanding the text and memorizing the verses at least well enough to follow my lead.

Each week we sing a little sing-song verse to memorize the names of the parshas in sefer Bereishit (genesis). We've started the sixth parsha of twelve tonight, and so far Amirah (and Raizel!) can sing all the parshas in order. I wonder if we can make it to twelve? We read My First Parsha book as soon as shabbat was over and sang our little song. It's nice to start the week right away with a taste of the new week's parsha. We've also started having very lively parsha quizzes on Friday nights and Saturdays, and it's a real pleasure to actually be having more involved parsha discussions at the table with the kids. I love this, and look forward to more and more.

MITZVA OF THE WEEK: burying the dead
In this week's parsha, Avraham buys the cave of Machpelah for Sarah's grave. We talked about the chevra kadisha, the group of men or women that stays with the body from the moment of death until the body is buried. They guard the body, wash it, dress the body in a white shroud, and recite tehillim. The body is placed in a plain wooden coffin (unless they are buried in Israel in which case no casket is used at all). All Jews, rich or poor, are buried alike in this manner. No fancy caskets, no fancy outfits, no flowers. We go out as we came in. We don't burn bodies because that was the tradition of the pagan religions that surrounded us in our beginnings. And since World War II that thought has become even more abhorrent (though that was not part of our discussion this week!). The chevra kaddisha is considered to perform one of the greatest acts of chesed (kindness) because it is a favor that cannot be returned.

MELACHA OF THE WEEK: kotzer (reap)
We had a lot of fun acting out plowing our field (choresh), planting our field (zoreah), and reaping our crop (kotzer). We have these three melachot down pretty well. We learned that we don't cut down flowers or plants or trees on shabbat. We also may not smell a flower that is growing for we might be tempted to cut it. If the flowers are already cut, then it is okay. We also can't climb a tree because we might break a branch.

We continued our study of chesed because it is so much a part of the last parsha and this one. Eliezer goes in search of a wife for Yitzchak, and decides that whichever girl offers water to both him and his camels will make a suitable wife for Yitzchak. Yitzchak, like Avraham, will be doing a lot of kiruv (outreach) and will need a wife who is kind and hospitable (more discussions of hachnasat orchim!). He is successful in his search, and brings home Rivka. She enters the tent of Sarah, and, like for Sarah, her shabbat candles stayed lit for a week, her challah miraculously multiplied, and the cloud of the shechinah (divine presence) hovered over their tent.

Swimming along here. We're on lesson 70 of 100! Eli loves doing Get Ready for the Code. He loves figuring out words that begin with the letters we're studying and doing a couple of pages in his book as it suits him. I always let him say yes or no to doing it.

HWOT has been a nice little book, but I think it wasn't really necessary to buy it. I could have easily produced practice sheets for her. On the other hand, it was only $7 or so, so I guess it saves me quite a bit of time! I've really been using a more Charlotte Mason approach - short writing assignments with a focus on producing beautifully formed letters. I really think this is the way to do it, instead of practicing a bunch of letters that get increasingly poor. Also, we always stop after writing 4 or 5 letters or words and circle the one that was the most accurately written so she really recognizes what looks good. I only ask for a page per day, and sometimes she does more than this.

Amirah loves math. She's been doing at least twice as much as I think we "ought" to do. Right now we're doing addition with numbers 1-10, including doing things like 5 + ? = 8. Getting ready for subtraction! We're also working on number lines and counting up, i.e. when you have 5+3 you say "5" then count "6, 7, 8" instead of counting from 1 to 8. She gets a kick out of it. Eli is working on recognizing the numbers 1 to 5 and counting objects.

We're about 2/3 through Little Town on the Prairie. Laura just got to go for a first ride in Almanzo's buggy, and Nellie Olsen showed up in town (and school). We've also added a few other companions. I've decided to read one Jewish folk tale every day. Right now we're reading My Grandmother's Stories. Really well-told, and many of the stories have charming twists and details that are not quite expected.

In our geography book, we reviewed chapter one, and started in on chapter two. We learned about the atmosphere, and how Hashem created the waters below (water) and the waters above (atmosphere). In Hebrew the words are mayim (water) and shamayim (heavens, lit. "fire waters"). Fire water is a really interesting image to use in thinking of the gases in the atmosphere. We had fun with that. We'll continue Chapter 2 this week. There are 11 chapters, and we're wandering through it slowly, doing a chapter every 2 or 3 weeks.

Amirah has a huge interest in the deep sea ecosystem, so we're doing some extra study of that. We're reading an interesting book aptly called The Deep Sea and we have many other books from the library for us to explore. We read about a species of jelly that is longer than a blue whale. We have decided to do a mini-unit on jellies this week.

We had a friend of Amirah's over on Monday, and I decided to do an impromptu music class. Everyone had a really great time. So did I! It's been fun to think about, and I don't associate any feeling of stress with it so I know it will be a good thing. Another friend of Amirah's will be joining us on Monday too. This week we did a Hebrew counting game, a game where the children demonstrated different physical responses (running, jumping, arms swinging, standing still, etc.) to different sounds on the drum, and a rhyme with changes in voice inflection and some hand motions. We also took out many different rhythm instruments and explored their sounds (and silence!). Students were introduced to the alto xylophone and learned proper mallet technique and how to do a simple repeating pattern to accompany a name song we did. The music teaching I've done so many years of (more than two decades!) so it's very easy to do the lesson planning. The fun part is getting to add in songs that relate to the torah/parsha/Hebrew. I'm really excited about adding this and seeing that it doesn't add stress to the week - just pleasure!

PHEW! I think that sums up the week. It was very rich and the kids are all doing great. I just love doing this.

No comments: