Tuesday, June 30, 2009

First Grade Resources

I think I pretty much have everything nailed down. This list looks huge, and it doesn't even include Jewish music resources, books we will read together, etc. The interesting thing is, most of the subjects we study, we do in very brief, dense, 15-minute lessons. And half of these resources are used only 1–3 days per week. Our learning time is pretty compact, and I've actually been finishing everything sooner than four hours. It's going great.

Here's the list:


The torah!
Siddur Chinuch Chaim Shlomo, from Artscroll Publications
Rav Schwab on Prayer, a great resource for biur tefillah (study of prayer)
Linear Chumash: Bereishis, for when we start reading torah itself
The Migdalor Program, for Hebrew
The Little Midrash Says, for parsha stories
L’shon Hatorah – workbook alef, for biblical Hebrew, from Torah Umesorah (no website)
Ketivah and Kriyah curricula for free from chinuch.org
Mizrachi School Curriculum, for curriculum guidelines; see bottom of website page
Curriculum & Methodology: Limudei Kodesh, Grades 1–8, for curriculum guidelines, from Torah Umesorah
Naaleh.com (wonderful online shiurim; especially kid-friendly ones on melachos)
A Historical Atlas of the Jewish People (great maps for scanning into our history notebook)
Echoes of Glory: The Story of the Jews in the Classical Era


Spelling Workout A/B
First Language Lessons
Zaner-Bloser Handwriting
The Complete Writer: Writing With Ease
Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading
Singapore Math 1A/1B
Story of the World: Ancient Times, and accompanying activity book
R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey – Life
Game Plan (Grade 1 general music)
Piano Adventures, Primer level (I've taught most methods out there, and this is the best!)
Art project ideas from my favorite art project website


Friday, June 26, 2009


Yesterday and today I tested out our new "first grade" schedule. Wanted to see how long things actually took, and my guesses were pretty accurate. Now that I have it sketched out, I want to focus on optimization. There is so much more I would love to include - formal drawing lessons, art and music appreciation, nature study... I just had an idea! Once a month or so we could skip a "normal" learning day and do nature study, music and art appreciation, and one other topic of their choice. I think I just figured it out...

I asked Amirah if she wanted to learn to play recorder or piano, and she picked piano. So beginning next week (bli neder) I'd like to add in a 15-20 minute lesson 2x/week after dinner. Everything else went so smoothly this week. Our learning is pretty much just a continuation of what we've been doing, plus a few new subjects. Primarily, there's a much stronger focus on l'shon hatorah (the language of torah, i.e. biblical Hebrew), and a stronger focus on narration and writing.

Her absolute favorite subjects right now are Hebrew script, spelling, science, history, tefillah, and torah stories. We've been having very interesting, very interactive discussions of each of the tefillos and I'm actually learning a lot too. So.... off to do more cooking while the kids play in the back yard.

The Menu

Here 'tis:

curried zucchini soup
cucumber, red onion, and tomato salad
carrot souffle
cherry challah pudding

and for lunch...

pasta salad with mergez sausage

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


My mom's mysterious six-week illness has finally been identified. She has parvovirus. We are all so glad to finally have an answer, and to know that it's a temporary condition! She continues to have a lot of fatigue, but most of the other symptoms have abated. This news made my day.

Beware Bonine!

I took bonine yesterday to take care of the motion sickness I get on amusement park rides now that I'm 40+. It worked great! I went on all the "big kid" rides with my daughter and my stomach didn't feel the least bit iffy. Six hours later, however...

I started to feel really, really tired, and then felt what it must be like to be drunk. It took great effort to put together an entire sentence without slurring my words. I couldn't for the life of me keep my eyes open. I fell asleep six hours early, got up for an hour to put kids and myself to bed, then slept another eleven hours, and still feel like I could sleep another 20. My eyes feel puffy, I have a terrible headache. Must be a hangover. It's really something, and you can bet I'm NEVER taking bonine again. I'll stick with dramamine! I had read that bonine makes you less sleepy than dramamine. Different side effects for different folks, I guess. Ugh.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Our Learning Schedule!

I think I have finished our learning schedule. We've worked our way into some of this already, but will officially begin July 1. I'm very excited. At first, I looked at the calendar to divide it up into quarters at various logical places, and then I realized we can just arbitrarily start our "quarters" on July 1, October 1, January 1, and April 1. The only reason to have quarters at all is so I can keep tabs on our progress and adjust our goals or speed up as needed. That simplified things. And each quarter just happened to end up having roughly the same number of days anyway.

We'll have an afternoon and a morning block of learning time. The afternoon block will be flexible during the summer, since it's awfully nice to throw in the towel and go play in the park when the weather is nice. We'll see how it goes, and then modify it (no doubt) as we get into it. So, here it is!

KODESH (religious studies), 2-hour morning block
davening w/all
parsha stories (weekly torah reading) w/all
biur tefillah w/Amirah (studying the words or meaning of a particular tefillah/prayer we are working on)
lashon hatorah w/Amirah - learning the vocabulary and grammar of biblical Hebrew in preparation for reading torah around November/December
kriyah w/Amirah - mechanics of reading Hebrew (i.e. phonics)
ketivah w/Amirah - learning to write Hebrew script
alef bet w/Eli and Raizel
Hebrew songs w/all

CHOL (secular studies), 2-hour afternoon block
looping subjects (Monday/Wednesday/Thursday)


looping subjects

Looping subjects are four areas of what I consider "secondary" skills. They include history, science, art, and music. Our loop schedule will be: history, science, history, art, music. If we don't get to a particular looping subject one day, we can scoot it off to the next looping subject period. That way we never actually miss it. I can also put off some of our kodesh studies to shabbat if we don't get it all done. I would love to have more time for music and art... we may limit history to simply reading the stories, but I really wanted to make time for map work, etc.

I'll post the materials we will be using on the sidebar as soon as I have it all in front of me. Torah Umesorah's book on curriculum and methodology was such a tremendous help in clarifying my thoughts on kodesh studies. Our primary goal really will be to get those Hebrew reading and grammar skills down really, really well. Everything that comes after depends on a firm foundation here.

And what will the littles do all this time? That will be the slightly tricky part. A fair amount of the kodesh studies (one of the two hours) will involve everyone, so that should be (and has been) pretty easy. During the afternoon block, Avi will take his nap. The secular subjects are focused on Amirah. Any time we finish early, I'll do some with Raizel and Eli. The looping subjects involve Raizel and Eli for science and art. We'll do other things not on the schedule too, like story time, physical exercise activities, cooking, etc. that will involve them.

Amirah requires the greatest amount of concentration for her reading lesson, so I'll probably let Raizel and Eli pick a 30-minute educational video to watch during that time. I'm a little hesitant; I don't like using a movie to "babysit," but I think it will make everyone happy for that half hour. Usually, they only watch a 30-minute video when papa works out and I am making dinner. I'll have to see how things go.

Sometimes I wish I were an early riser, then we really could get all of our learning done in the morning, 8:00-10:00 and 10:30-12:30. Right now we start at 9:30, which gives us plenty of time to have breakfast, do a couple of morning chores, and get going. The earlier start might be prudent, especially if I can cut my planning time down to a more minimal amount. We'd only have to get up about one hour earlier and not dilly-dally, so it's not that far off. We'll see... I've been such an unrepentant night-owl lately. Gevalt... and good night!

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Menu

Here 'tis...

roast chicken
Hungarian mushroom soup
sauteed asparagus and rice
tomato salad
carrot ginger puree
zucchini kugel
roast beets
birthday cake

And for tomorrow...

We'll wing it! :)

Great Beans

We eat a lot of beans. Bulk dry beans are cheap. Dirt cheap. Especially if you buy them in 50-pound bags. :) A friend of mine said she always does her refried beans in the crock pot. I'd never even thought of doing that! I soaked a huge mound of beans all day, then drained them. I put 2/3 in the freezer pre-soaked to be processed later. I put the rest of the beans in the crock pot, enough to fill it 75% full, covered the beans with water, and added a chopped onion and 3 cloves of garlic. I set it on low and let it go all night long. In the morning I seasoned the beans with salt and cumin, pureed them in the food processor, then put them in the freezer in quart-sized bags. (A quart easily feeds all of us for at least one dinner and two lunches. A few beans go a long way!) They were delicious! I thought they were a lot better than stovetop beans and they even had a richer color.

Other beans we actually enjoy are black beans, red lentils (not so fond of the brown ones), soy beans (fresh and dried for making soy milk or tofu) and chick peas. Other beans are just a bowl of good nutrition for a good price. It's been a very beany week, and I find myself happily anticipating tomorrow's roast chicken.

Stay at Home Mom Brain

Whenever anyone tells me that being a stay-at-home mom means that you don't really get to use your brain is, well, in a word - NUTS! The incredible organization it takes to run a home smoothly, to budget carefully, to cook meals that are enjoyable, to keep the house humming and happy, teaching your children to be kind and respectful, and then there's being JEWISH, which is a whole brain workout in itself. Being a homeschooling mama really magnifies the brain workout too. I am learning so much every day, and there are so many engaging, worthwhile things to learn.

And my new favorite? The word-a-day e-mailed to me by dictionary.com. WOW! More words I never heard of. Yay.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


I've been hacking away at our new learning schedule, working to allocate the time well for both chol and kodesh studies. I worked out a pretty nice schedule of 18 hours per week, 9 for kodesh and 9 for chol. The Well-Trained Mind suggests that 1st grade should take 15 hours per week, 35 weeks per year (525 hours). We should be coming out to 18 hours per week, 40 weeks per year (720 hours). Of course, The WTM also suggests 15 minutes of religious instruction during family time oughtta do it. I crack up whenever I read that! I wish I could condense it down to 15 minutes, but that is impossible.

I like the total number of hours I came up with, and don't want to go over that. Monday through Thursday will have a 2-hour block in the morning and a 2-hour block in the afternoon (with breaks, and different children learning or playing). Fridays only have a morning block.

I read about an interesting scheduling technique called looping. Basic skills can be scheduled daily, then the secondary skills (which for us at this stage include art, music, history, and science) are set up in a loop. I have four 1-hour slots per week for looping subjects. We'll do history twice in a loop, so that makes five subjects to loop through four time slots. The nice thing is, if we miss a day for whatever reason, we just pick up that subject the next time a loop subject is on the schedule. So we never end up missing it altogether.

We'll use shabbat afternoon for catching up in kodesh studies (pretty much everything but grammar and writing is possible on shabbat). For secular, I won't worry about catching up per se, just pick up where we left off. We'll also study/discuss things like tznius, halachos, and melachos.

I just saw (on google books) part of a book called Time and School Learning. Part of the book goes into details about how time is allocated in a typical school day. According to the author's research, 63% of the time in school is for instruction, 23% for recess and lunch, and 14% for classroom non-instructional time (attendance, passing out papers, etc.). The mean day length was 360 minutes. That would mean 3-3/4 hours of a 6-hour day was spent on instruction per day.

What I started to wonder is how much of that 3-3/4 hours was a particular student actively engaged in the learning? (As opposed to waiting for someone else to take their turn, or simply waiting because that particular student had already apprehended the concept being taught.) I would guess at least another hour per day goes out the window (and I think I'm being conservative). I would guess that at most 3 hours of every 6-hour day is devoted to active learning (495 hours per year). The local Jewish school has a 7-1/2-hour day. I calculated an estimate of active learning time per student based on the above (which may or may not be valid), and came up with 670 hours.

So, just to have the totals in one place:

public school: 495 hours
Well-Trained Mind: 525 hours
local Jewish day school: 670 hours
my projection: 720 hours

Our higher number of hours is mostly because we have 5 additional weeks in our "school" year, and we're probably covering things that aren't necessarily covered in a day school strapped for time. Also, I will be putting 360 hours into secular subjects as opposed to 495 in public school, but many additional "secular" skills are learned or enhanced through our kodesh studies so there's not as much of a disparity as there might appear to be. That's also a reason why I have been pondering at great length how to deliver the essential skills in the most efficient method possible, and considering what subjects require formal instruction and what subjects will just be learned as the student lives their day-to-day life. While I feel no affinity for unschooling, I do think there are many subjects that simply don't need to be taught in a formal way.

So many factors go into piecing together the curriculum - the personality of the student, their strengths and weaknesses and how best to approach both, what Jewish knowledge and skills should be imparted, how to pare down secular studies to the essentials without shaving too closely, how to keep the curriculum alive and engaging but not overwhelming. Yes, I'm sure I'm overthinking it, but it IS my hobby. My brain ought to calm down soon!! Once I have my overarching objectives in place, which I think I nearly have, I can relax into the beginning of first grade. And what a ride it will be!

Bob Menendez

Okay, I promise, just one more political post. This is really well-spoken, brief history of the conflict in Israel. One of the best summaries I've heard in a very long time.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


The 2000 Statistical Yearbook of Jerusalem lists 1,204 synagogues, 158 churches, and 73 mosques within the city. How many times is Jerusalem referred to in the koran? Zero. How many times is Jerusalem referred to in the torah? 349 times as Yerushalayim, 108 times as Tzion. And Jews turn to face Yerushalayim three times a day in our daily prayers.

So would Obama please move the US Embassy to Jerusalem NOW?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bleary Eyes

This week has been planning week. My eyes are bleary from lots of reading into the wee hours. I got some wonderful books today from Torah Umesorah that really helped to clarify my thinking on our kodesh (religious) studies. I really want to get all of our learning done as efficiently as possible, and sometimes deciding what is crucial, what is extra, and what can wait until the following year is very hard to discern. We don't want to burn out, yet at the same time kodesh really is as substantial a set of skills as chol. We could easily spend 3 hours on chol and 3 hours on kodesh. But we have many other things to do besides crack books...

This week I would like to finish clarifying my kodesh goals, and next week I would like to comb through chol to make sure I've trimmed everything practical. I also would like to look at places where kodesh and chol can overlap to maximize our time.

With language, there can be a lot of overlap. Science can be infused with a torah perspective. Art projects can come from torah subjects or themes. In history, I'm looking forward to reading in our new Jewish history book in tandem with our ancient history book (though our Jewish history book doesn't really pick up until halfway through our ancient history book). It's been really interesting to study what the setting was when ethical monotheism appeared on the scene.

Anyway, I'm tired but enjoying the process here. Tomorrow, we have Girls Night Out at the local amusement park with two of Amirah's friends. Thursday is her birthday, and grandpa comes up for a week (while grandma stays home, hopefully continuing to recover from her very mysterious ailment of 5 weeks). Better go to bed before I crash right here. Good night!

Monday, June 15, 2009

When I Drive a Tractor

By Eli Earlix

When I am a grownup I will be a farmer. I will grow corn plants and I will have 1 meat cow and 5 dairy cows. I will also have 2 goats. I don't know why I want 2 goats, but I do. I will have 4 chickens. They will lay eggs. I will also grow wheat. I will have 7 boys. They can just play while I work on the farm. My farmhouse will have two really big sinks so I can water my plants. I will have a tractor, a combine, a model BI (a machine??), and a John Deere excavator. I will also grow strawberry plants. I also want a motor grader to spread dirt around. A machine that breaks up rocks would be good too. My papa will do the cooking. My mama will work. Avi will drool everywhere. Amirah and Raizel will feed the chickens. My wife's name will be Shuli. She will teach the boys. I will live on the farm for a billion days. My bed will be in the farmhouse. I will have the same bed and blanket that I have now. And I will get a new truck blanket. We will eat fish. On our farm we'll have a river with fish and salmon in it. We will catch them with our fishing pole.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Menu

Here 'tis:

Roast garlic lemon chicken
Stir-fried rice
Roasted potatoes
Roasted carrots
Roasted asparagus
Fava bean salad
Cabbage salad with a mustard balsamic vinaigrette
Chocolate birthday cake

And for lunch:

some kind of chicken salad...

Yom huledet sameach, DH!


I'm working on an outline for what we're going to study in the coming year... We learn year-round, four days per week (Monday through Thursday). We take off all the Jewish holidays, including the entire period of pesach. Friday is for shabbat prep, Saturday is shabbat, and Sunday can be used if we're behind on anything.

These are the topics I will be covering formally:

KODESH (religious studies, in the a.m.)
tefillah (prayer, the doing of it!)
biur tefillah (studying the text, origin, meaning, etc.)
melachos (prohibited work on shabbat)
Hebrew (primarily reading, some oral + learning script later in the year)
Torah: in English with selected text in Hebrew, plus stories and "torah theater" (we act parts out)
yamim tovim (dinim, minhagim, songs, etc.)

CHOL (secular studies, in the p.m.)
ancient history (including ancient Jewish history)
art (major project 1x/week)
music (recorder)

It feels like a lot to cover (because it is!). I can see why day schools find it challenging to offer a high-quality dual curriculum. It takes a lot of time. The Well-Trained Mind suggests 3 hours per day for first grade work. That seems about right if you add in plenty of history, art, science, and music. Kodesh studies are in addition to that, and tdhere is so much a child needs to learn, especially since it is all in another language.

I made up a 2009-10 calendar today, struck out all the Fridays/Saturdays/Sundays, struck out all the Jewish holidays and the secular ones when papa would be home, subtracted 15 "just because" days off, and ended up with 178 days. That's pretty close to the typical 180-day school year.

I need to spend more time seeing where I can make the kodesh and chol studies overlap, but it's tricky because it really as much a dual-language curriculum as it is a kodesh + chol curriculum. And I continue to ponder what are the minimal essentials for a student to be very well-educated? For kodesh studies at this age, Hebrew and instilling ahavat/yirat (love of/fear of) Hashem are central. Nothing I intend to teach is far from that core mission.

What do I want them to accomplish with their chol studies? To be competent readers, writers, and sharp interpreters of what they take in. At this age, I want them to soak up many, many examples of very high-quality oral and written language and fill their minds with all kinds of (torahdik) material that can be drawn upon when they reach the age of greater self-expression (5th grade-ish). And through the study of history I want them to have a personal, relevant connection to the Jews who have preceded them and who were one step closer to Moshe, and therefore holier. (Jews see people as devolving the further in time they get from the revelation at Har Sinai.) I want them to understand where the Jews were in each point in history, and how they related to the cultures and religions around them. I want them to appreciate Hashem's creation through understanding science, and I want them to experience art and music as two other modes of expressing Hashem's world.

But how can we do all that and still make mud pies? That's the part I have to think on a little longer... Jews aren't called "People of the Book" for no reason. And I have to consider what the three younger ones would like too. Raizel is so eager to learn more alef bet. Eli loves alef bet and math best of all. They soak up a lot through osmosis, listening in on Amirah's learning time, our stories, and their own learning time a few times per week. I'm sure I could put a good deal of the torah learning off onto shabbat since it doesn't necessarily involve writing, just listening and reading.

I've scheduled every rosh chodesh (new moon, the 1st of the month on the Hebrew calendar) for a day trip somewhere (zoo, woods, museum, etc.). It's traditionally a semi-vacation sort of day for women, so I thought that would be a nice tradition.

I'll keep pondering on our schedule and goals. I've nearly got all the materials we'll need (and I LOVE our new Jewish history resource!). I'll post a complete list soon. Of course, we're hoping a move will come sometime in the next few months and disrupt all of this! I also always overthink the beginning of the year (did the same when I was in a classroom situation) and become more relaxed as the year progresses. Writing things out helps to clarify things in my mind, gives me a record for the years to come, and hopefully offers something useful here and there to my other homeschooling friends!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sparse Posts Be Gone!

I've had my hands full lately...

After 5 weeks on the market, we took the house off the market today. We had lots of visits (nearly 30), and for our realtor it was his #2 house in terms of sheer numbers of showings. (And it felt like it too, with the 20 hours per week it took to keep the house "showroom ready.") The average is 12 viewings for 1 offer. We didn't get any offers, even after lowering the price by 4%.

We had mostly pretty positive feedback from realtors, except for one thing that was noted several times. People think the layout is a little problematic. The master bedroom is upstairs, and the other two bedrooms are downstairs. People with young children don't like the separation. (We solved that by turning the lovely, sunny upstairs living room into a gigantic kid bedroom... but then our kids go to bed late and sleep like rocks, so noises drifting up the stairs from mama don't matter.) We love the non-traditional arrangement, but I suppose others wouldn't. With all the kids (except the baby) sleeping in one room it frees up one of the bedrooms for an office area/exercise room. And Avi has his own room since he can be a bit noisy (he likes to thump his feet really loudly in the middle of the night).

Also, from the house you can't keep an eye on the back yard. There is a deck with stairs going down just off the kitchen which can be blocked off, so that's what we did, but now Avi is old enough and Amirah is old enough that if she's out there playing with him I'm not worried. The yard itself is danger-free. Our street is also the main thoroughfare for the neighborhood, so somewhat busy. That makes the unfenced front yard not all that suitable for a play area either.

So... we realized we'll have to drop the price quite a bit more than we thought/hoped in order to sell it. When all is said and done we'll likely (please, Hashem!) just get back our pretty good-sized downpayment. (So many people are NOT in this fortunate situation and instead are upside-down in their mortgage, so I am grateful, if a little wistful.) Since that's the case, we'll just wait until DH has a firm job offer in hand and we'll put it back on the market when we move out of it. Whenever that may be! I'm quite relieved, though I really had enjoyed the thought of perhaps experimenting with farm life for a few months while we were in between houses. Oh, well. It was so nice not to worry about every single mess today. We also took out the long-stored learning table and put it on the back deck and spent the whole day learning outside. It was really lovely. We can do big art projects again now too. And messy science. Yay. And I don't have to clean the house from top to bottom every time I want to step out for a little while. It's good.

In other news, my mom has come down with a mysterious illness. Symptoms have been going on for 4-1/2 weeks. They're not sure yet whether it is a tropical bug she picked up in Hawaii, or some kind of ailment. We should know more on Friday after some test results come in. It's awful to just wait and wait. She's experienced quite a lot of pain, and I have never heard my mother complain about pain. I feel terrible that she has to go through this and hope that we will get answers soon, BE"H.

Other than that, Amirah has LOVED her ponyback riding lessons. She doesn't care if she's actually on the pony, cleaning out his hooves, or shoveling poop. It's all equally good. She's all ready to marry a farmer and call it good. And Eli says he wants to be a farmer too and drive a tractor. Hmmmmmm... family business? :)

Our learning is going really well, even if it was a bit minimized these past few weeks due to house showing constraints and not wanting to make a mess. Now we can go at it. We pretty much learn year-round. I think of our new year starting July 1, with July, August, and the fall holidays maybe being at 75% speed. So... I'm actually on the brink of assembling all of our learning materials in front of my eyeballs ("just" 4 more packages to arrive!) and sketching out the coming year, with more detailed plans for the summer. I think I've made virtually all the purchases I need to. So far I have not made a purchase I regretted, B"H.

I've been cogitating quite a bit on one thought... what are the essential formal skills we must transmit to our children in order to educate them? What activities and experiences are merely reinforcing or somewhat peripheral to those essential nuggets? I feel more and more like that truly essential core is much smaller than I ever realized. So much they get from life experience. And when you teach 1-on-1 you can get it down to just the right "dose" for that exact child. Formal education can almost be distilled down to several nutrient-rich little "pills" for lack of a better word. Of course, there are myriad ways to spin out all that learning to flesh it out. And with modelling the inspiration and teaching a love of learning, their education eventually becomes self-propelled, especially once they are beyond the elementary years. These thoughts of mine are not fully formed, but I'm so eager to observe the learning process and see where things go.

The kids have all been doing great, B"H. Amirah has really picked up with the reading and writing skills. I have completely allowed her to set the pace and have never pushed her in these areas. She's doing really well and broadening her skills. She's started spontaneously writing notes that include words like "astronaut" (spelled "astronot") and expert (spelled "exprt"). I switched to the Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading, and that has been working out much better for us. And we're using Explode the Code too as a supplement, but skipping the writing parts. Instead I use them for oral spelling practice. She tells me how to spell the word and I write it down. It's worked really well to reinforce her more advanced reading skills. And we still love First Language Lessons! And Singapore Math is still just the right program for us too. She is very, very happy to have her very own all-Hebrew siddur and her eyes shine now that she can find all the tefillos (prayers) that we do each morning in it. Hebrew reading is clicking along, and she could listen to torah and torah stories all day long. In history we started studying the period around when Avram was born, leading up to when the Jews were in Egypt. It's very interesting to juxtapose this with what we've learned about Egypt so far.

Eli has been doing great with his Hebrew studies. He also loves math and alphabet. Not into writing at all (not surprising, at barely 4). He enjoys hearing torah stories. He doesn't do much of his davening out loud, but if I practice with them and leave out a word he can fill it in every time. So like a lot of preschoolers he knows it inside, but just doesn't quite want to spit it back out. :)

Raizel. Wow. Intensely curious and, I'm pretty sure, really, really, really smart. Which spells trouble. :) She loves to take things apart and see how they go back together (or not). She loves to experiment with things. She has full conversations on an imaginary telephone, with the other conversation happening only in her head. She puts ideas together in new ways with a vivid imagination. Applies new concepts to different situations with alacrity. Her mind just seems to constantly crackle. She is one sharp cookie. When all of that gets harnessed, watch out! She will do amazing things with that.

And Avi just rolls around the house and makes us laugh. He has a ready smile. Very physically active. Climbs up and down anything he can find. Jumps all over. Adores his oldest sister, and it's mutual. She hauls him around the house like he's her favorite doll. When he gets hurt, he'll just as happily go to her as me. She cuddles and coos over him just like a little mama. It's very, very sweet. They definitely have an especially tender bond.

So life here is good, B"H, and I'm glad we can relax into the beginning of summer. I'd been saying all along that I really wanted to have one more summer in Oregon because the summers here are just about picture (and temperature) perfect. And I'm almost out of last season's jam, so time to start making more. And we have just enough grape juice to make it through to the fall harvest, so I actually hope we're here for that too. We picked 150 pounds last year. We were able to give away a few quarts as gifts. Might be we need to pick a few more pounds this coming year with the kids getting bigger. We used to go through 2 quarts every 3 shabboses, but now it's more like a quart per shabbos. At first we thought we were (horror!) going to run out before the next harvest, then I discovered one more batch of jars. Phew!

So, with that, good night!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Kid Stats

I thought this was amusing... (but not as amusing as your 0 percentiles, J!).

Amirah - 52.2 pounds/48" - 82nd/90th percentiles
Eli - 33.4 pounds/40.5" - 26th/53rd percentiles
Raizel - 35 pounds/36" - 86th/18th percentiles
Avi - 25.4 pounds/30.5" - 52nd/16th perdentiles

We run the gamut in sizes! It's pretty funny...

Obama's Speech in Cairo

This article speaks for itself.

The Menu

Here 'tis:

cabbage rolls
roasted veggies
mashed potatoes
butternut squash puree
apricot cake

And spanikopita for lunch!

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Shema

Did you know the shema (THE most important prayer in Judaism) is a haiku? Good night!

Family Movie

I could go on and on about David Attenborough and any of the nature shows he hosts, and I'm sure I have in previous blogs. Tonight we watched an episode from Life in the Undergrowth, and again it was an evening of "OH!" "WOW!" "They can do that???" Utterly incredulous footage and the dialogue is so rich in information. I really think this series has perfected the art of nature movies. There is no moralizing (ugh), no forced storyline where none exists, no anthropomorphizing. The WOW is in the science and the footage, not the dazzling speed or special effects. I had no idea that galls on oak trees could be quite so utterly fascinating. We can't wait to see another episode.

Another Great Readaloud

Another random choice off the library bookshelf proves a good one. We just got back from a four-day trip to Ashland to visit Dean's mom, and we started reading Mara: Daughter of the Nile. We're about halfway through now.

I've been looking for historical fiction about ancient Egypt, since that's the period in history we're studying right now. I couldn't have ended up with a better book. It's basically a spy thriller set in the palace of Hatshepsut, an ancient female (and historical) pharaoh. The main character is Mara, a slave girl, who, with the hope of buying her own freedom, is simultaneously hired as a spy by opposing sides (one who supports the current pharaoh's reign and one who believes her half-brother is the rightful pharaoh). The dialogue is superb, the characters are utterly delightful, and the descriptions of day-to-day life are very well done. The best part is the page-turning suspense. It's very hard to put the book down at the end of a chapter. It would really make a wonderful movie, with the sharp dialogue, vivid descriptions, and great action.

Another bonus - so far, at least, it has not gone heavy (or even lightly) into any avodah zorah/idol worship. It does provide enough of a contrast to Judaism that the differences are pointed out as we go, and we also get a vague inkling of what life in Egypt might have been like in the general time period of yetziat mitzraim/exodus from Egypt. The author also uses a very wide vocabulary, including many new words for Amirah. The sentence structure is pleasantly complex, but not so much so that an almost-6-year-old is totally lost.

We can't wait to find out where it all ends!