Tuesday, November 30, 2010


letters 001Perhaps to make up for last night’s stormy behaviour, Elisheva braided Naomi’s hair tonight.  I think it looks wonderful – thoroughly bohemian!

Naomi didn’t want to show me at first – I think she was afraid I’d make her pull them all out…


letters 005 letters 003

Cheap n’ Cheerful Cuisenaire Rod Rack for Math

Math table!!!  Big kid doing math test, little kid doing rod addition!

rod track 044  rod track 046 

Following my new choose-her-own-Miquon philosophy, Naomi chose and worked this entire sheet almost without complaint!  Numeral reverals are still troubling her, and she gets very frustrated when I point it out, so I have backed off a bit.

 rod track 048 

Rainbow Resources sells a Cuisenaire Rod Track and I decided it would be a good thing to have – two days too late to add it to our order last week.  The track itself costs only $4, but with shipping, well, a lot more.  So I decided to make one to tide us over until my next Rainbow order (this was only my third, so really, they’re not very frequent).

Here’s the REAL THING:


And here’s my DIY version!

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They didn’t have any trays that were a) this long, b) this sturdy and c) not quite so seasonal… sigh.

 rod track 053rod track 055

There is exactly 1cm between the rulers, allowing up to 30cm of rod length to slide neatly in between (the original is 50cm long).  The three rods at left add to 27cm (10+9+8); so do the seven rods at right (2+1+6+1+9+4+4).

I hope it’ll look slightly less gluey when it’s dry, but really, I couldn’t care less.  We’ll have the real thing soon enough, no doubt.  It’s only $4, and looks way deeper than mine, so GZ would probably enjoy it for lining up his trains.

Speaking of cheap n’ cheerful, I was thinking more about sandpaper letters and quickly threw these together while Naomi was practicing Handwriting Without Tears today.  She did the ones on the right:  I wrote the letters with marker and she traced them somewhat messily with glue.

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To make the raised letters, I used the dyed baby pasta I made for our Israel map project back in June.

Fun with manipulatives!!!

Mikeitz Parsha Overview: יוסף/Joseph’s Story Continues…

image Adapted from the Vayishlach pages of Parsha Pages for Sefer Bereishis, this is a basic overview of the continuation of the parsha story in a traditional “Q&A” format, easily reworked for kids of any age.  Answers in brackets are traditional responses, from parsha text and midrash.  But be open to anything your child might have to say! 

Please see below the Vayeishev overview for how we use them in our homeschool!  I also have several copywork sheets to go with the weekly parsha.

In the beginning of this parsha, יוסף is still in jail!


פרעה had two strange dreams:

In the first dream… (seven skinny cows swallowed seven fat cows)

In the second dream… (seven skinny stalks of grain swallowed seven fat stalks of grain)

פרעה’s שר המשקים (wine butler) told him about a person who could explain the dreams… (יוסף!)


יוסף told פרעה that the dreams meant a famine was coming!


How many good years would there be first?  (seven)

Then how many years with not enough food?  (seven)

יוסף had some advice for פרעה… (save up food during the good years)

פרעה needed a wise person to help save up food… (so he chose יוסף!)


יוסף went from being a slave to being a very important person in מצרים.


פרעה gave יוסף … (jewellery, clothing, a ride in his chariot) to show how important he was.

פרעה gave יוסף (his own ring!) to show that יוסף was in charge.

פרעה also gave him a new  מצרי name… (צָפְנַת פַּעְנֵחַ)… and a wife (אָסְנַת).

יוסף and אסנת had two sons, אפרים and מנשה  (on שבת, we bench boys to become like them…!)


יוסף saved up more than enough food!  Then, the famine came.


Was the famine only in מצרים?  (no, it was also in ארץ כנען)

יעקב sent ten of יוסף’s brothers to מצרים… (to bring back food for the whole family)

Which brother didn’t יעקב send?  (בנימין; he didn’t want to lose the last of רחל’s sons)

Did the brothers recognize יוסף when they got to מצרים?  (no, they did not!)


יוסף recognized his brothers, though.  He decided to test them!


What did יוסף need to find out?  (if his brothers had done teshuvah for betraying him)

יוסף gave his brothers some food, but said if they wanted more, they had to bring… (בנימין)

Did יעקב want to send בנימין?  (no, he did not!)

One of the brothers promised to be in charge of בנימין… (יהודה)


The brothers went down to מצרים again to get more food.


As they were about to go back home, יוסף ordered his guards to open… (בנימין’s bag)

What did the guards find there?  (יוסף’s silver cup!)

Did בנימין really steal the cup? (no, יוסף’s guards put it there)

The guards told the brothers that בנימין would have to… (stay as a slave in מצרים)


Are the brothers going to leave בנימין as a slave, the way they did with יוסף?

יוסף wants to make sure they’ve learned their lesson and will stick up for their brother.


We’ll find out whether they have done teshuvah in next week’s Parsha…


imageA dreaded word when you have a newborn.  Dreaded and yet a blessing – at least you know there is enough, unless there is too much and your baby is drowning every time your milk lets down. 

It happens:  gulp, gulp, gulp – he has to pull off, take a break, because you are the proverbial milk factory.

Now that my baby is three years old, he is no longer in danger of drowning, to say the least.  Now, I am rarely sure anything is “going on” when he has his nummies; now, I savour every last one of our cuddles, because he’ll announce “all done” at any second; now, he is falling asleep on me less and less often (how will I know when it’s the last time I feel his body twitch and go perfectly still, his breath a soft melody against me); now, I know he will not be mine, in the same way, ever again – and now, being engorged is a welcome feeling.

Now, it reminds me sweetly of when he was small.  Of course, it is never too painful now, just a fleeting pang-iness when I have missed bedtime and have a little too much to go around.  I don’t bother doing anything about it, except maybe try to linger a bit longer the next time, if he’ll stick around – he has a busy life now and not much time for cuddling.

With a tiny baby, engorgement was a panic thing – because of supply and demand, every time it happened, I was sure there would be less milk next time.  Yet we’ve survived; he seems to have gotten more than his share.

Now, it just reminds me that we are closer to The End than I might like.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Menu Plan Monday #33: 22 Kislev, 5771 (Chanukah Edition)

Why the weird dates? Click here to find out! 
Other “weekly challenges” I participate in that may or may not interest you:

Hi!  We are a Jewish family of 6 (2 parents, 4 kids) and all our meals are kosher.

Newcomers, read my MPM intro here which tells you all about who we are, or just visit my super-duper-list-imization of Everything We Eat.

Last week was pretty bad, mealwise, with not one but TWO pretty major crash-n-burn episodes.  Not literally burn, or crash, but it always feels like a massive failure when I cannot get supper on the table by 6:15ish.  On Tuesday, I wasn’t feeling well and Ted was home, so we ordered pizza, for a change.  And then on Thursday, the sourdough cornbread turned out very, VERY badly.  Nothing much we could do except eat it, but nobody has touched the leftovers.  Sheesh – I just realized; what a terrible week in bread.

Perhaps to help with the burnout, Ted seems to have stepped up as the Shabbos menu-planner.  I don’t mind – he either preps everything himself or at least tells me what to cook.  I love leaving my brain out of it entirely.  Maybe I’ll have him post his Shabbos meal plans directly on here.  He usually plans it out on Wednesday before he goes shopping… so organized!

Anyway, for this week in family meals, I’m aiming low.  Low, low, low… here we go!

Sunday (last night, Mommy & Abigail here):  CORN FRITTERS (My mother complained through the whole meal that they were NOT her mother’s corn fritters, though I’d never claimed they were.  I make mine with beer batter and they are utterly savoury and delightful.)… leftover Pumpkin Black-Bean soup from last Thursday, spread farther with extra frozen pumpkin, cider and curry powder… plus Susie Fishbein’s Spicy Carrot Sticks.  Yum!

Monday (tonight, Ted late):  Ted “made” supper – perogies, fish of some sort, and frozen peas (thawed and cooked, of course)

Tuesday: Pasta with fake-crab alfredo sauce – YM has spoken!

image Wednesday (Chanukah):  Traditional latkes, of course!!!  Maybe with chicken wings?  Or is that too weird a combination, or too much fried-type stuff (I do the wings in the oven, so maybe it’s okay)… I am craving chicken wings, though!

Thursday (Vegan Vursday, still Chanukah):   Pumpkin latkes plus… what…?  Soup?

Friday (still more Chanukah, sheesh):  I have no clue what to eat, as always.

Neat scheduling idea…

Check out this inexpensive homemade magnetic bulletin-board idea for scheduling your family’s activities!  (or arranging various homeschool subjects and events!)

In this context, it’s a meal plan scheduler (and yes, I know it’s Monday and I don’t have my menu plan up yet!), but I can think of about a bazillion more uses…


Hebrew Kids’ Book We Like: Chanan Haganan – חנן הגנן

imageLast thing before I turn in – I forgot to put in a plug for our current Hebrew book (in addition to the Hebrew Mr. Brown can Moo!)

It’s called חנן הגנן/Chanan HaGanan, and it’s a very cute story by רינת הופר/Rinat Hoffer/Hopper?  (I have no idea, really!)

The rhymes are so catchy I quickly found a way to sing the refrain of the book and the message of this story is wonderful. 

Chanan sells his fruits to five children, promising a treasure inside every one.  The kids eat the fruit, but complain that all they see is the pit.  He tells them gently that the pit IS the treasure.  One by one, they plant their seeds, and five wonderful trees spring up, each one bearing fruit, and each fruit carrying its own treasure.

imageA great story for Tu b’Shvat or any old time.  The vocabulary is not very challenging, and it introduces good vocabulary like אילן, עץ ,פעמון ,גן, and, of course, many exotic fruit-names!  We have never tried most of the fruits, including persimmon, guava, dates (fresh).

The tree pictures are so silly; both kids love sitting and staring at them and finding the not-tree objects growing in them:  an egg, a boot, a pretzel, a key.

This is our second Hoffer/Hopper book; the first was Ayelet Metayelet, which was also a fun read with the same addictive rhymes.

Oh, wow.  I just discovered this YouTube video where you can hear the story read as a class of kids acts it out – no wonder that kid has a cast on his arm, the teacher is letting him climb up a folding table!  OMG, my kids will love this video!!!  It’s adorable!

Just thought I’d share this…

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Homeschool Diary #7: 22 Kislev, 5771 – the Chanukah Edition

PLEASE JOIN US! If you teach your kids at home, please add your blog to comments section below!
Other “weekly challenges” I participate in that may or may not interest you:
I missed a week in there… please forgive me.  No excuses, and lucky me, here’s another week just beginning!
Last week was actually a very good week, school-wise.  We got tons and tons of stuff done, just didn’t have a bunch of time to blog about it.  I felt we made great strides in math, reading and a bunch of other stuff – seriously.  And we had fun, too. 
One day in there was the most miserable day ever.  I forget which day.  It was just a terrible, overwhelming time.  Everybody cried, I think.  And everybody yelled and screamed, including me.  Awful.
image This week, well, I know there will NEVER be a normal week.  I am reconciled to there never being a normal week.  So I’m happy to announce that this week will be completely befuddled and interrupted by… Chanukah.  One of my least favourite holidays.  Bah, humbug!
(image courtesy of G-dcast)
Note to self:  we’re looking at COINS later this week… please, dear self, remember to obtain some actual coins at some point early in the week so we are ready by Thursday.
Note to others:  our Living Learning Science “animals” curriculum is on hold to learn about Yom Tov.  After Yom Tov, we will do an “All About Me” unit before launching back into the HUMAN BODY – Naomi’s current obsession.  I hope she’s still obsessed by the time we get there!
Monday (Ted late):
  • Morning:
    • Swimming Lessons
    • Hebrew – Kriyah v’Od with Naomi during his lesson
    • Clocks math with Naomi
    • Doodles & free play with GZ during her lesson
  • Afternoon:
    • Chanukah handprint menorahs for cover of Chanukah lapbook
    • Small map exercise for Chanukah lapbook
    • Bob Books Reading:  one old, one new
    • Dick & Jane Reading:  1 or 2 “chapters”
  • Evening
    • Ballet (last class!!!)
    • Continue reading On the Banks of Plum Creek
  • Morning:
    • Continue Rod/Miquon Math – introduce concept (making tens)
    • Naomi chooses a worksheet
    • Dreidel statistics graphing from Our Jewish Homeschool
    • Parsha reading and overview
  • Afternoon:
    • Handwriting without Tears w/ rice writing for tactile reinforcement
    • Phonics:  Explode the Code
    • “Chanukah words” insert for lapbook (haven’t figured this one out yet)
    • “Chanukah observances” insert for lapbook – already printed & ready to glue
    • Continue reading On the Banks of Plum Creek
  • Morning:
    • Add “Chanukah Brachas” to lapbook – not sure how this will go yet
    • Chanukah story & narration – I bought fancy new narration paper (see below) last week, but maybe will find a Chanukah notebooking page instead for this special narration.
    • G-dcast Chanukah video as a reward
    • Hebrew:  Continue with alef-bet learning site
  • Afternoon:
  • Evening:
    • First candle!!!   Family fun…
Thursday (YM off for Chanukah):
  • Morning
    • Introduce money math.  Canadian currency posters (see below):  pennies – with images from this very thorough printable government kids’ resource.
    • Handling coins, playing with coins, adding up pennies, penny tallying, etc.
    • Chocolate coins for snack!!!
    • Chanukah window art
  • Afternoon
    • Handwriting without Tears w/ rice writing
    • Phonics:  Explode the Code
    • Starfall book/site as a reward (GZ is loving it these days!)
  • Evening
Friday (Ted off, YM/EC off for Chanukah):
  • Morning
    • Canadian currency posters:  nickels & dimes
    • Handling coins, playing with coins, counting by 5’s and 10’s
    • Read through finished lapbook together and enjoy!
  • Also – who knows when?
    • Parsha Review
    • Parsha Narration & illustration
    • Gdcast parsha video (reward for the narration)
  • Evening
    • Third candle!!!
Resources we’re loving this week!
image image image image image
(I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Dick & Jane – the stories are easy to read and even a little humourous.  It’s a nice change from the Bob Books, in my opinion…)
My Own Homemade Printables:
image image
image click to download
(I’m not uploading this one because it features Canadian money.  If you need Canadian money worksheets, or want a .doc of the file so you can substitute US or any other money images, please let me know!)

As of January 15, 2012, I have now uploaded a .docx version of these Canadian Money posters, with a maple leaf instead of the Chanukah Money picture, that you can customize in any way you like.  Find it here.

Very basic Handwriting without Tears “numerals” sheet that Naomi can look at and copy from when she’s doing math work.  There are happy faces to show were each number is started.  Not uploading this one either because I think it will have limited interest, but contact me if you want it!
Stopped in at Scholar’s Choice last Friday and picked up some resources that I look forward to using soon!
Not sure how I will work this in, but it’s the best intro to maps and mapping I have seen at the K/5-year-old level.
Just way cool!  Draw an outline of your kid, then copy, colour and paste on the organs one by one as you learn about them!
Reading guides to some of Aesop’s Fables, reworded in simple, modern language.  Perfect length for narration and each has character-related discussion as well as vocabulary lists.  Written exercises for each story as well.
Touch and trace cards for lowercase letters. Similar to sandpaper letters, these cost too much but the salesperson convinced me that if I bought them, I would qualify for a discount that made them pretty much free.  So I bought them.  Sucker! 
If I’m feeling ambitious at some point, I may make a set of uppercase letters like these ones
What a busy week!  I’m exhausted already!!!
What are you up to this week in your Jewish homeschool…???

Rethinking Miquon Math: A Revelation

image I have been getting more than a bit frustrated “doing” Miquon math, and I had a revelation over Shabbos.  Which I always hate, because I can’t write it down… on the other hand, it forces me to keep whatever it is IN my thoughts so I don’t forget.

So here was the revelation:  I’m working too hard to do it in order.  Of course it’s dull doing so many pages of counting or number lines or whatever – you’re not supposed to do them in order.  That’s Part One.  Part two is:  I’m trying too hard. 

Miquon is supposed to be student-directed, whereas we’ve been doing it like our other subjects, where I demonstrate a concept, Naomi explores it for a bit, she works on the worksheet, and DONE.

No, no, no, no, no.

I reread the First Grade Diary, a guidebook that (kind of) shows how one teacher (the woman who created the program) teaches math with Miquon, and it hit me like a lightbulb.

In the First Grade Diary, the lessons are usually divided into at least two parts, one teacher-directed, playing a game, demonstrating a concept, etc.  And then a second part where kids choose activities and/or pick lab sheets to “experiment” with.

Yup… the KIDS choose the worksheets.  Well, then!  That’s a little different, isn’t it?

So this afternoon, I ransacked both workbooks (I have the first two, Orange and Red, but may get the next two if we continue with this new system), tearing out every single sheet I felt Naomi Rivka was remotely ready for. 

miquon 001Not just addition, which we have been dutifully slogging through, but measurement, inequalities, geometry, odd-even, because I think it would be fun and easy, and – because she’s really into clocks right now – the first of the “time” worksheets.

So far, I’ve hole-punched all the torn-out worksheets and stuck them in a binder, miquon 002roughly grouped into topics and separated by dividers.  And THAT is what we will use for math this week, and perhaps from now on. 

Not the thick workbooks, with all their irrelevant (or rather, not-yet-relevant) pages, but this binder, which has exactly 16 pieces of paper in it so far.  This seems to me a very lovely number:  not overwhelming; perfect for child-directed learning.

It’s almost Montessori in its elegance.

imagep.s.   Bonus!  This method will also allow me to incorporate occasional worksheets from elsewhere – online printables, selections from her Clock Math book or even this cute Dreidel Graphing exercise from Mommzy over at Jewish Homeschool.  Or cool printables from this site I’ve just discovered!

Not that I’m in favour of MORE worksheets.  No busywork, please!  Just fun with math…

The finished - decorated - gingerbread house

gingydone 005[3] Last night's gingybread is done!  I think it looks great, and you know I don't say that about most of the slapdash craft projects that take place around here...

I love this roof!

Here's what we used for decoration:

  • soft mints as colourful accents
  • Golden Grahams for shingles - they look perfect!
  • Twizzler Nibs for columns - good, use them up; I can't stand them!
  • mocha lentils around the windows
  • pretzels for random accents and a heart on the chimney

gingydone 002gingydone 004gingydone 006

Won't you come inside, little children, so I can fatten you up...???

Gingerbread Night!

Hi!  Welcome to my blog!  For some reason, this nondescript entry has become one of my most popular posts of all time.  I have no idea why.  It’s not entirely typical of this blog.  So if you think this is weird and random, click here to get to the REAL excitement.  If you’re here for gingerbread-baking tips, which the blog is NOT about, well, read on.  :-)

(oh, and check out my baking blog here)

gingy 027It’s gingerbread time again!  This is an extremely goyish thing, I know… and yet, and yet.  Being at Pioneer Village last weekend, surrounded by the waft of gingery aromas in all the houses… well, we may be Jews, but we’re also Canadian, and gingerbread is a Canadian thing – NOT an Xmas thing.  Especially if it’s still November while you’re doing it!

I chose an interesting pattern online, for a haunted house, but that’s okay… I like the jaunty angle of the walls, but otherwise, it looked simple enough.


(it says to print the squares to one inch – I enlarged it but mine still came out smaller… I was okay with that because it was big ENOUGH)

We mixed up my classic reliable gingerbread recipe.  Naomi helped!

We took an evening walk to my mother’s house to pick up some hard candies.  All she had was Ricola cough drops and some sugar-free ones.  I wasn’t sure if the sugar-free ones would melt properly and/or be disgusting, but I took them anyway.

Rolled it out with a wine bottle instead of the rolling pin because I used butter and I want to keep the rolling pin pareve.

Traced and cut out the pieces (I did most of it – Naomi was dragging the knife and her pieces kept tearing, plus her “straight” lines were wonky)!

 gingy 033gingy 034

Crushed up the Ricola and sugar-free candies to place in the windows – always my favourite part of making the house AND of the finished house.

gingy 028 gingy 029  gingy 031   

I cut out one window in the shape of a letter “N” for Naomi Rivka, and then realized it makes it look like the word NO.  Scary!

Baked the pieces in two batches, and we used a l’chaim cup to cut the extra dough into “coins”.  Here they all are!!!  At this point, I read the kids a story, and put them to bed. 

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No way I’m doing burnt sugar with kids running around!

gingy 039 gingy 041 

Fastest way to ruin a frying pan!

No pics of this step because I was working so quickly:  glue, glue, glue, glue. 

Smart-person tip from a pro!  This year, I actually remembered to bring up a bunch of food tins from the basement ahead of time to prop up the pieces as they dry.  With burnt-sugar, it only takes a few seconds, but in those few seconds, you will wish you had seventeen hands!  Thank you, evaporated milk!!!

The gingy house looked very nice before I added the vestibule.  We even made a lovely window on the house’s front panel; I forgot that it wouldn’t be visible… we ought to have done one on the vestibule instead.  (doh!)

The vestibule didn’t fit properly:  I had to trim the roof so it would fit snugly, and then I did too much and had to trim the walls a bit also.

And, of course, it looks kind of gross with all the sugar goobered everywhere.  (you can see the colour change in the sugar between the first pieces I glued and the last ones.  The main roof went on last, and it has the darkest sugar.

gingy 043 gingy 044 gingy 045

That chimney is weird.  I should have put it a bit lower down… or maybe left it off entirely.  But really, these photos are quite forgiving – it’s a bit ugly, but I’m not worried!

The true test of a gingy-house is how it lights up.  This one didn’t score so well on that front, I’m afraid.  Pop in two tea lights and… underwhelming.

 gingy 046  gingy 047

Peering into the dark, scary vestibule…!

gingy 049

Oh, yeah… and here’s the original (taken from this site), just for comparison!


Nice!!!  Ours is not TOO far off.  And keep in mind that ours still needs to be decorated.  It’ll be fabulous, I promise!

Gingies of the past:

Postscript:  here’s what it looked like with the decorations!