Monday, February 28, 2011

Homeschool Diary: 24 Adar 1, 5771

image Other “weekly challenges”:

I haven’t done one of these in a while, but I do want to keep it up, so I figure I’d better get into the habit before Purim and Pesach run everything completely off the rails around here. 

schoolin 020We’ve had a couple of “field trip” weeks, and it’s amazing how just one outing in the middle of the week can throw things totally off for the entire seven days.  They were good trips, though – one to the fire station, and last week, to the Museum.  Naomi was playing Museum today – by making her own “coprolites” (ie dinosaur poo) out of cardboard, coloured grey and brown.

I love how people online sometimes name their homeschool.  There must be a philosophy that recommends it.  If I ever do, which I probably never will, I would call our homeschool “The Smile Factory.”  Mostly because we have so many tears and screaming around here.  Luckily, most of the tears and screaming have nothing to do with homeschooling.  But still… welcome to The Smile Factory.

It just sounds sinister, you know?

פְקוּדֵי / Pekudei

Supposedly finished with Respiration, but I think we’ll take another week to do this in more depth.  The next unit is Skin, and the books haven’t come in yet anyway.

And here’s what else we’re up to!


schoolin 021Monday (Ted off):

  • MATH:  Monday math – homemade dinosaur math worksheets; ordinal numbers, graphing – whoops, forgot to practice our skip counting (see below for how we’re doing it these days)!
  • HEBREW:  Reading/writing in Kriyah v’Od
  • HEBREW READING: New “Hebrew Reader” from our Mirik Snir set:  קבלת שבת/Kabalat Shabat – Mommy reads alone
  • * NEW!  ART:  Began Draw Write Now, Volume 1 (a most successful hen-drawing lesson!)
  • CHAGIM:  More from the Purim section of the Migdalor “Chagim” book.
  • PHYSICAL/RECREATIONAL:  Park walk with Abba – taking advantage of semi-decent weather!
  • PHYSICAL/RECREATIONAL:  Ballet for Naomi, swim for both kids

schoolin 023image


  • WRITING:  Handwriting Without Tears
  • PHONICS:  Explode the Code, post-test – we’re just about DONE!!!
  • READING ALOUD:  BOB Books, Winter Fun Readers / Dick & Jane
  • HEBREW READING:  Mirik Snir book, read together & listen to it on the CD
  • SCIENCE:  Continue with Respiration; reading, colouring page, maybe watch an animation if I can find a good one online / narration – must not forget narration
  • CHAGIM:  Begin homemade Purim worksheets
  • PRESCHOOL/SOCIAL:  Gavriel Zev’s weekly preschool program
  • PARSHA:  Begin weekly Parsha review (today or Wednesday)
  • CHAPTERS:  Continue reading Matilda; we’re almost done, and the kids are loving it.  Naomi gasped last week when it was revealed (gasp – spoiler alert!) that Miss Trunchbull was Miss Honey’s abusive aunt.  She tried announcing it to everybody in the family, but – pitfall of being Child #3 – everybody else knew already from having read it years ago.  Drat!)


  • PRESCHOOL:  Same/different on homemade Purim worksheets
  • MATH:  Continue with JUMP Math
  • HEBREW:  Reading/writing in Kriyah v’Od
  • READING ALOUD:  BOB Books, Winter Fun Readers / Dick & Jane
  • ART:  Draw Write Now, Review Lesson 1
  • CHAPTERS:  Continue reading Matilda
  • SOCIAL/RECREATIONAL:  Playdate at the Barbara Frum drop-in gym
  • PARSHA:  Begin weekly Parsha review (if not done on Tuesday)

Thursday (Ted’s late day – eek, and I just realized I’m out most of the morning, so I don’t know how much learning will take place around here… :-o):

  • MATH:  Continue with JUMP Math
  • WRITING:  Handwriting Without Tears
  • PHONICS:  Begin Explode the Code, Book 2!!!
  • SCIENCE:  Read/experiment/activity
  • READING ALOUD:  BOB Books, Winter Fun Readers / Dick & Jane
  • HEBREW READING:  Mirik Snir book – Naomi on her own
  • CHAPTERS:  Finish (?) reading Matilda?  Begin next Little House Book – probably Farmer Boy; it’s about time we read about a boy, for a change.
  • SOCIAL/RECREATIONAL:  Weekly Thursday Homeschool Drop-In
  • Library run in the evening???


  • MATH:  Continue with JUMP Math
  • PARSHA/Narration / illustration
  • G-dcast weekly parsha video
  • …And that’s ALL!

Sunday (alone with Naomi Rivka):

 Resources we’re loving this week!

A couple of added math resources that are FREE and WONDERFUL:

image Skip Counting Drill Sheets from Lilliput Station (free on CurrClick.  Yeah, I know this one seems like busywork of the worst kind.  But it’s NOT. 

To prepare for multiplication, I try to review our “weekly” skip counting number every morning.  We’ve done 2’s, 3’s, 5’s, 10’s, and last week, we started working on fours.  imageI  have a plastic binder protector taped to the big mirror so I can slide in one of these cute skip counting charts (a different link from the Drill Sheets) and leave it up as long as we want.  There are dozens and dozens of drill sheets in the free, downloadable PDF (I think you have to register).  I print as many Drill Sheets as I want to work on at one time and store them on Naomi’s clipboard.  Then, before we sit down to “do math,” I pick one sheet and she fills in just ONE row – of 2’s, 3’s or whatever (ie multiples from 1 to 12).  Then, she picks a skip counting sheet and fills in just ONE row.  Then, we’re done, and move on to our regular math.  Fours is taking longer than 2’s, 3’s and 5’s… it just occurred to me that I should show her on the 100 chart that counting by 4’s is the SAME as counting by 2’s – just skipping every other multiple.

Plus, there’s also…

image imageimage image

image image

What’s going on in your  homeschool this week???

משנכנס אדר… Free Homeschool Printables for Purim!

In honour of Rosh Chodesh of the REAL Adar this week, I’ve put together a 4-page pre-Purim Printable Activity Pack for download.

These activities are the sort of thing my kids are enjoying right now, and I hope others will as well.  These are mostly preschool-level, because Gavriel Zev has been clamouring for more “same/different” worksheets, but there’s also some copywork, phonics, and a patterns page for slightly older kids.

Please visit my Limudei Kodesh downloads page and scroll down to Yom Tov Activities to find it!

Hopefully, I’ll put a few more activities together before Purim is actually upon us…

Menu Planning Monday #33: 24 Adar 1, 5771

image  Why the weird dates? Click here to find out!  Other “weekly challenges”:

We’re a Jewish family of 6 (2 parents, 4 kids) and all our meals are kosher.  Read my MPM intro here or just visit my big ol’ list of Everything We Eat.  We eat mostly vegetarian, with one vegan meal every single week – on Vegan Vursday, of course!

Staying on the wagon… staying on the wagon… staying on the wagon.  Washing every single dish in the house 2, sometimes 3 times a day, it seems like.  I think I explained last week, but Ted usually does LOTS (all?) of the dishes.  But between now and Pesach, he’s on Pesach Patrol, while I’m pulling my weight on Dish Duty.  And schooling the kids.  And laundry.  And some freelance writing… and whatnot.

imageNeedless to say, what we eat is taking a very definite backseat for the next few weeks.  And don’t even ask what I’m doing for shalach manos (mishloach manot, baskets of food we send out on Purim) this year; for probably the first time EVER, I simply have no clue.   Here’s the Purim fairy – maybe she’ll lend us a hand, or at least, a passing inspiration.  :-o

Here’s what’s on the (uninspired) menu this week:

Sunday (last night):  Filo-dough pizza, salad, tiramisu and chocolate molten cakes for my sister Abigail’s birthday – which is tomorrow.  Yay, her!

Monday (Ted off):  Bread from leftover rosemary/potato dough, spaghetti, tomato sauce, frozen veggies on the side.

Tuesday:  Salmon (tinned, fresh, frozen?) quesadillas

Wednesday:  Chicken & rice dish – easy, easy

Thursday (Ted late, Vegan Vursday):  (pareve, eggless) Oven-baked mushroom crepes, frozen peas tinned carrots on the side – pea soup?  Maybe not peas AND peas… maybe a different side veg!  :-)

Shabbos:  Yeah, right.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Internet and Jewish Kids

The Jewish Mom blog has posted some scary statistics about religious kids and Internet use, and I thought I’d share my reply here, not just in her comments section, though probably more people read her comments in a day than read my blog in a week – heck, a year.

At last, an area where I have some expertise!

1) Filters – a smart kid can get around them.
2) Supervision – remember that your computer is only ONE WAY your kids use the Internet. Do they have a phone? Do their friends have a phone? An iPod? Whatever it is, if it has a screen, it probably has Internet access… that you probably can’t supervise.

Here’s a frum guy who came to my kids’ school last year.
Watch his video:
What he has to say is SCARY, but we all need to hear every second of it.

Remember that your kid (and mine) can get WiFi (wireless) access from any public library, many recreation centres, shopping malls, maybe even at school.

Maybe even in your home – I walked into my son’s bedroom one day to find a Google window up on his screen. I thought he didn’t have access down there, but it turns out our neighbours did – and they had an open WiFi connection.

You can’t stop your kids from using the Internet, or from visiting “bad” sites. I believe we can only reinforce Hashem’s message and do our best to LIVE Hashem’s message in our own lives, and hope our kids will come out okay.

I would also add what I heard from Shmuli Boteach – I’m not a huge fan, but I interviewed him once, and he said some smart stuff.  Be POSITIVE with your children.  If all you talk to them about is negative (“don’t have sex, don’t do drugs… don’t DIE”) you’re sending the wrong message; you’re pushing them away with scare tactics.

The right message is an ongoing dialogue – from birth to marriage and beyond – about how to live our lives with sanctity, in line (as I said before) with Hashem’s holy purpose.

The “entertainment” they find on the internet is a series of small, superficial good feelings that keeps them clicking through, ever searching for the next “hit.”  Hashem’s intention is for us to find deeper, lasting happiness; for our bodies to be holy, our time to be holy, our marriages to be safe and sacred.

If that’s what your kids see and hear, I believe they can withstand almost any amount of Internet exposure and still probably turn out alright.  (and on a personal level, I’d better hope so!)

Demonstration for Daniel

daniel 038Yes, I’m turning my children into activists.  This is actually only the second demonstration I’ve ever attended with them (the first was an anti Kahane Chai rally I took the older children to a million years ago).

This was a gathering to show support and try to bring home “Daniel,” a child on our block who was taken from his long-term, stable foster home by JF&CS almost a year ago.  He’s been in a group home ever since, with kids much older and more troubled than he is (or at least, than he was).

Considering the cold, considering people’s apathy, considering a whole bunch of other things, I’m very impressed with the 40-50 people his old babysitter was able to rally to show up on a Sunday afternoon and makes some peaceful noise on one boy’s behalf.

The sign GZ is holding reads “we won’t get another boy,” a reference to “Daniel”’s plea to his parents to not just replace him now that he’s out of their home.  As if they could.

Here’s me with MPP (provincial minister of parliament) Rosario Marchese, making my little speech (text below) into a microphone on the snowy lawn of an elementary school near the group home.

189001_10150154720055350_629930349_8808940_459050_nI guess we’re lucky that it’s an election year.  And also that this seems to be Marchese’s pet project:  he’s actually sponsoring a bill to make Children’s Aid Societies here accountable to a general ombudsman. 

Apparently, right now there’s little oversight of CASs, which means that not only do children get removed from great foster homes, they get killed in lousy ones.  Clearly, the system is VERY broken; I hope it gets fixed soon, though I worry it’s already too late for “Daniel.”

My mother and sister came along, which is touching because they have both experienced the somewhat klutzy hand of JF&CS in their lives.  Ted had to work, and Elisheva couldn’t make it, but YM came and enjoyed the pomp of it all, marching and carrying a sign (he also loved the Kahane Chai rally, a million years ago; who wouldn’t want to be in a parade?!).

Here’s what I said.  It’s actually borrowed from this post, from October of 2009.  Everybody else spoke about the current tragedy – so I wanted to offer a perspective on the happy side of things; the way fostering CAN create a home, if we let it and don’t let the CASs behave like gods in our kids’ lives.

Have I ever mentioned our foster kid? He's not ours, exactly, but some days, it sure feels like it. He lives down the street with his real foster parents, who went to our shul for a while, but then switched to somewhere else.

Some days, especially on Shabbos when I'm trying to lie down, he wanders past our house, staring longingly at the porch. If he sees any signs of life, he'll shout to us and ask to come in.

Naomi Rivka and Gavriel Zev are crazy about him - he's ten years old, so it's very flattering that he spends time with them. If they're out on the porch, they'll start screaming his name and begging him to come in.

The older kids, not so much. To them, he's just a pain. I tell Elisheva he could be Eliyahu ha'Navi (Elijah the Prophet) in disguise, but she still sighs and groans.

He sometimes comes over asking to read to the younger kids. They like it, but they also know his reading is a little challenged. I have to help; if they pick too hard a book, he gives up on Page 2. If the book is too easy, he's not interested. It has to be just right for him to stick all the way through.

He's been raised religious, but perhaps because of his challenges, he's only just now learning Hebrew, so he likes to practice with Naomi Rivka. He's not allowed to say where he goes to school ("it's a private school").

Last Shabbos, he came in as we were setting up for lunch and when he noticed food was arriving soon, asked if he could stay. I said it was up to his parents, so he ran and asked them and ran back to say yes. It was actually a pleasure having him for the meal. Why not? He doesn't eat much, and keeps the conversation lively... and keeps Elisheva's eyeballs rolling.

Usually, when he arrives, he'll look at the clock and announce something dire like, "I can only stay for two hours… six hours… eight hours." He never stays the whole time: after maybe 20 minutes, maybe 45 or more, he'll sigh like an old man with the weight of the world on his shoulders and say he's going home now.

Someone told me that he wasn’t allowed to spend time in our home unless we had been cleared by the agency. I don’t know if this is true; I know there are tremendous restrictions on foster parents, but what am I supposed to do?

To me, I'm just part of the village that’s raising this kid, because, for whatever reason, his birth parents couldn't do the job. It shouldn't all fall on the foster parents; whatever money they're getting, it’s not enough to take on this kid:  forty-five minutes; two hours; we’re exhausted.

At least the foster placement seems to be working; he's been with this couple around four years and seems quite happy.

It's a relief, after hearing so many awful things, that the system sometimes works: that sometimes, a couple takes in a kid and it's a good match, and everybody benefits - including our family.

New Album!


My sister’s been hard at work on a  new album, and here it is!

Seriously, this is a very slick endeavour, all professionally produced and studio-recorded and, well, I don’t know much about these things, but it’s on a real CD and everything.  She’s planning on spending the better part of the summer touring.

The album is coming out… well… erev Pesach.  Not quite, but just about.  So we’ll have five days to listen to it before Yom Tov starts – but that’s neither here nor there! 

I will warn you now – there’s nothing particularly Jewish about this album, despite her wonderful recording of the Sevivon song.  I hope she doesn’t mind my saying so.  I hope I haven’t missed some discreet Jewy nuances.

imageBut don’t let that stop you! 

Buy the album by clicking on either album-image link, or just listen to amazing sneak-preview full-length singles here!  I cannot believe somebody this talented is related to ME.  Not that Sara isn’t talented, but believe me, Abigail got my share of musicality, that’s for sure.

Let’s show her that good ol’ “Adventures in MamaLand” financial support!!!

Oh, yeah, it’s also her birthday on Tuesday and I still haven’t thought of a present.  Drat.

Don’t tell her, but the labelled spread-open heart image on the album reminds me of my father, who struggled for 14 years with a  debilitating heart condition.  Though he wasn’t, ultimately, the greatest “survivor.” 

I doubt that’s what she intended; that would imply a bitterness that isn’t really there… I think.  I wonder if it disturbs other people in my family, or if it was accidental…?  Coincidence?  I tell myself that people with Masters’ degrees in smart-people subjects don’t have coincidences.

Winter Posturing

Winter is posturing mightily this morning.  Here’s what greeted us when we walked outside at 8-ish to drive Ted to work:

floor snow 005

Is this its last gasp?  As when my children puff up their cheeks and mutter murderous threats, it’s all I can do not to giggle.  The porch thermometer reads +1.  The end is in sight now; for all its tough talk, winter can’t last.

 floor snow 007 

Garden gnome:  “ach, the indignity…”

Meanwhile, indoors, it’s cozy & warm:

Elisheva took Naomi to the Sunday drop-in program, so it’s quality time with GZ.

His reading skills are light-years ahead of his coordination, so we’ve kind of reached the limit of what we can do in his workbook.image  He’s okay if it’s just circling same/different – in fact, he LOVES the same/different sheets.  I guess we need a book that’s ALL same/different, because this one has moved on from recognition to simple line drawing and basic strokes / character formation.  At first he could keep up, when it was basic mazes, but now it’s drawing X’s and O’s, and that’s way beyond him at the moment.  I do like the book and plan to return to it once he’s ready.

Meanwhile… some suitably Wintry Math!  Just trying to figure out where I downloaded these sheets from; it was a while ago.  Ah – here we go – lots of snowy wintertime printables from Itsy Bitsy Learners!

floor snow 010 floor snow 011

We practiced the numbers in a “Montessorish” 3-period style:  “This is THREE.”  “Can you show me FIVE?”  “How many cars do I have here?”  Because it’s review, I’m moving quickly through the periods, but understanding this technique – which Charlotte Mason also observed and approved of in Maria Montessori’s work – is very helpful, and applicable to any subject, at any level.

And now… breakfast time!  While he happily listens to his davening CD.   Today is the first time he’s gotten even a little fidgety in the absence of all the other kids.  Usually, he’s extremely independent – the point of resenting intrusion. 

I probably shouldn’t have interrupted his independent play to do the worksheets and math, but I knew he’d enjoy it, and I had to do it in a break in my gruelling dishwashing schedule.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Six Word Saturday: 23 Adar 1, 5771

Why the weird dates? Click here to find out!

Other “weekly challenges” I participate in:

Preparing for nummies today, GZ suggested we be butterflies.  I said we couldn’t because butterflies come from eggs, and he shrieked –

“They don’t – they come from baboons!”

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Parsha Poem: Vayakhel / וַיַּקְהֵל

שְׁמוֹת / shemos / shemot / Exodus 35:1-38:20

Printable PDF version here.

Parsha narrative overview here.  Copywork and parsha activities available here.


 “Come one, come all,” our Moshe cried,

“Who’s for Hashem?  Come to my side!

Bring gold, bring jewels, fabrics more,

About a gazillion and fourty-four!”


What’s with all that building stuff?

And how could he hope to get enough?

It was to build the Mishkan home

To help the Jews wherever they’d roam.


The princes, arrogant as they were,

Said, “we guess that he’d prefer

If we brought our donation last of all,

And bring in the rest upon his call.”


But all the people jumped right up

Bringing their golden goblets and cups.

Bringing their goat skins and their wool

Until the collection bins were full!


“Oh, no!” the woeful princes cried.

“We wanted to help – we really tried!”

Hashem said, “What did you anticipate?

Doing a mitzvah should never wait!”


Moshe explained what they’d done wrong;

They should have known it all along.

If building a shul, a clinic or a school,

Giving generously must be the rule.


If the issue was the money at stake,

Their offer would be the best one to make!

Sure; bring all the money left at the end;

What a great way to save up and spend!


But Hashem doesn’t need gold, or silver, too;

The only donation He wants is YOU.

“You princes, nesi’im, don’t hold yourself back –

Your missing neshama is our Mishkan’s lack.”


“We’ve learned our lesson,” as one came their chime,

“We’ll certainly do much better next time.”

“In that case,” Moshe said with a smile,

“There are a few things you can bring in a while.”


image What were those small gifts the nesi’im brought?

Things not too valuable, if they were bought.

Some jewels, some oil, some very fine spices,

Things that you wouldn’t think had high prices.


Nothing too costly, but that was just fine,

Each of those gifts would soon come to shine.

Every Jew helping out was what Hashem meant,

So He could be with us, wherever we went.

(images from - Vayakhel Coloring Pages)

Simcha? Invite the Amazing Bottle Dancers!

My mother passed this link along to me with the comment from a friend of hers that it was “such a delight to watch!”  (she says she didn’t find it delightful)

What is happening to the Jewish world??  This group, the Amazing Bottle Dancers, are apparently the latest hot thing in simcha entertainment.

This promotional video shows how they can fit their crazy Jewy dance routine into ANY bar or bat mitzvah theme.  Don’t even get me started on themes – there are a number of extremely wonderful goyishe ones in the video if you want a sample.

Here's a "very unique" theme for a bar/bat mitzvah:  Judaism.  Never tried that one, have you?

Their video says bar/bat mitzvah is supposed to be about having a great time.  And guess what?  They’re happy to work around “Themes that have nothing to do with anything Jewish!”  Isn’t that fantastic?  Invite some fake Jews in fake beards with fake accents to do a fake cossack dance - the real cossacks would be proud!

The amazing bottle dancers say they’ll add “that touch of tradition that’s obviously missing from a venue like” a luau, a conga line, the Hard Rock Café – anything your little darling wants (if the little darling has really been consulted on the theme). 

Here’s what I say:  “Feh.”

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fw: Buffalo etc.

What's the longest sentence in the English language that can be formed with a single word?
My answer was "Absolutely." But apparently, there is one longer...
My question to this is: "acceptable to WHOM, exactly?"
----- Original Message -----
From: the YBOY
To: the MOMMY
Sent: Wednesday, February 23, 2011 9:44 PM
Subject: Buffalo etc.

buffalo=verb: to push around, to confuse, etc. Rare, but acceptable.
Now we get:
Buffalo buffalo (buffalo from the city of Buffalo)
Buffalo buffalo buffalo( who buffalo from the city of Buffalo bully)
buffalo Buffalo buffalo. (bully other buffalo from the city of Buffalo)
And so,
Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Princess Heather


As a homeschooling parent, there is so much I CAN do and DO do on a regular basis that it’s discouraging when I come up against one of my failings.

Yes, failings.  (family members, especially younger siblings:  this is not true; I am lying, I am omnipotent, I am making this up, and therefore stop reading right now)

Here’s one:  I absolutely cannot, in any way, make up a story.

imageI just can’t!

In one of my signing classes, the teacher was trying to get us to sign more fluently by making us draw three random “story cards” and then using classifiers (descriptive hand movements that don’t correspond to exact word-signs) to tell a story based on the pictures we’d drawn.

Well, I failed miserably, and would have failed in any language, even English.  One of my “stories” involved an elf who found a key and a baby and a bag and there was a lot of random arm-waving but it was basically a STUPID story that culminated in the elf OPENING A DOOR!

Don’t get me wrong:  I can write a story.   Not that I do, much, these days, but I can.  I’m a good writer, and I’m proud of it.  But I can’t TELL a story that I haven’t previously written down or memorized.

And that’s okay, it turns out, because Ted can. 

He has started relating a “Princess Heather” story episode every single night.  The stories are short and sweet and a little (okay, a LOT) dumb, but that’s exactly why I’d be lousy at making them up, and the kids LOVE them.

The closest I came to telling a story, I think, was one time in the car, stuck in traffic, when I told a story about “Snakerella” that was suspiciously like a serpentine version of a certain classic fairy tale (instead of a glass slipper, she wore a silk tube).

But really, my kids only need one parent with this skill, so I feel like it’s okay if we share the storytelling labour a little unevenly.

Here’s the latest Princess Heather episode, memorialized at Ted’s blog, which he optimistically renamed Kosher Nice Time Kids (check out the URL for its original name).  You can read through the other posts for some sparse glimpses of what life is like on the other side of MamaLand (would that be AbbaLand?).

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Vayakhel / וַיַּקְהֵל Weekly Parsha Overview: Building Begins!

שְׁמוֹת / shemos / shemot / Exodus 35:1-38:20

Please click LIKE in the box at the left-hand side of my blog or at the Bring Daniel Home facebook page.  This is a family who live on our street, and they could use all the support we can offer as they struggle to get their 11-year-old son out of a group home.  Read the article to get the facts and “Share” it with anyone you think might care.

This is a basic overview of the parsha story in a “Q&A” format adaptable for kids of any age. Answers in brackets are traditional responses, from parsha text and midrash. Be open to anything your child might have to say!

Please see the Vayeishev overview for how we use these narratives  in our homeschool.  There are also copywork sheets to go with the weekly parsha… enjoy!

Parshas Vayakhel / וַיַּקְהֵל


“Build me a Mishkan and I will live there.”  Hashem said it before; now, it was time to get building.

The only problem was:  Moshe still didn’t have any of the special building materials Hashem had asked for!

What did he need?  (gold, silver, copper, wool, fabric, animal skins, jewels and oil)

But there was something that was even more important than building the Mishkan – Shabbos!

Even Hashem’s house, the holiest thing on earth, had to wait while everybody kept Shabbos.


image Moshe told bnei Yisrael the things they should bring to build the Mishkan.

Did Moshe say, “Shmuli, you bring gold; Rivky, you bring silver”?  (no, he did not!)

He didn’t tell people exactly what to bring.  He let them decide!

Did Moshe say, “Rich people, you bring gold; poor people, bring goat skins”? (no, he did not!)

Moshe didn’t tell the people what to bring, or how much.  It was entirely up to them!


Moshe just said:  “wise-hearted people, come help.”  What does it mean when a person is “wise-hearted”?

Sometimes, we think about doing something good; this is called “good intentions.”

Good intentions doesn’t mean everything you do will be good; sometimes, what you do turns out NOT good.

In last week’s parsha, bnei Yisrael decided to serve Hashem by building a golden calf – that was NOT good.

Later on, in parshas Shemini, we’ll learn about Nadav and Avihu, who also did something BAD with good intentions.

That’s why Moshe says “wise-hearted”:  he meant “you need good intentions, but also a good plan.”


image A good plan also needs a good LEADER.  Maybe more than one leader!

Moshe told bnei Yisrael again the name of the leader:  Betzalel ben Uri ben Chur

His grandfather, Chur, was a tzaddik, killed for trying to stop bnei Yisrael from building the egel hazahav (golden calf).

Betzalel would also have a helper:  Oholiav ben Achisamach, from Shevet Dan.

Oholiav was a simple person from the least important Shevet; anybody can become great by serving Hashem!


Why wasn’t Moshe the leader to build the Mishkan?

We already know that Moshe was very busy judging the people from morning to night, but also…

Just because Moshe was a good teacher and judge doesn’t mean he was a good builder and supervisor!

Even if a person is a very good teacher or artist or dentist or bus driver (maybe even THE best), he still wants…

·         A good plumber if his pipes are leaking,

·         A good architect if he wants a house that will stand up properly,

·         A good baker if he wants to buy some bread or cake, and

·         A good doctor (maybe the BEST!) if he gets sick.

Moshe was a good teacher, and a good leader, but he still needed the BEST person to supervise the building project.

Everybody should do the things he is best at, and choose the best person for the things he can’t do!


Now the leaders were ready, and everybody started bringing the supplies Moshe asked for.

They started … and then brought more… and more… and more.  Rich and poor:  everybody gave what they could!

“Stop!” cried Betzalel and Oholiav to Moshe.  “We have more than we need!”

“Stop!” Moshe told bnei Yisrael.  “We have all the materials we need.  Now the craftspeople can go to work!”

Expert men and women went to work right away with the materials – they made everything just as Hashem told them.


Never wait to give tzedakah!

Some people say the princes, the leaders of shevatim, didn’t bring materials right away when Moshe asked.

“We will wait,” they said, “and see what is needed later on.”  But they never got a chance!

Right away, the people brought too much, until Betzalel and Oholiav cried out “Stop!”  They had all that they needed.

“You should have brought your gifts right away,” Moshe told the princes.  “Never wait to give tzedakah.”

Still, Moshe told the princes they could bring the jeweled stones for the choshen mishpat, the oil for the menorah, and the spices to mix the ketores.  All of bnei Yisrael, great and small, should have a part in building the Mishkan.


How would bnei Yisrael know they’d built the Mishkan exactly right?  In next week’s parsha, Pekudei, we’ll find out!


Old Pesach Photo

Big boy and girl, kind of camouflaged against the stripes of the sofa.  Date reads “Pesach, 5757” (this yeaer is 5771, making this approximately 14 years ago).  Boy 2, girl 1.   This was back in the days when I could afford and cared enough to make sure that each kid had at least one brand-new-from-a-store matching outfit before Yom Tov.  Who did I think I was???  ;-)


I found this photo in Ted’s folder as I was transferring some other Pesach-related stuff to the other computer.  He’s making up his grand six-week Pesach Plan.  Heaven help us all!

Good, good friends


We’re reading Magic Tree House #3:  Mummies in the Morning, and on the way home from supper last night (my mother surprised me with cabbage rolls), we were talking about Ancient Egypt, and how our Avos spent time there.

Naomi Rivka:  “You know, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Syria… they’re all –” (pause) “- they’re like good friends.”

Um, okay!  I just said, “because they’re so close together!” and she agreed.

We left it at that:  I cannot bear to disillusion her.

First-ever: Composer Narration!

musician 001As previous described in this post, I wanted to wrap up our fairly low-key study of Vivaldi with a composer colouring page, Composers Fandex plus printable bio, along with this actual composer narration.

Boy – she sure didn’t want to tell me ANYTHING!  I think she was pretty tired, as evidenced by her later conking out for a 2-hour nap.  In any event, the text may be lackluster, but the illustration – once again?  as usual? – completely blew me away.

The stringed instrument on the left-hand side of her drawing is a violin, by the way; on the right, she’s drawn a cello.  You can tell the difference by the bottom pin on the cello.  I also love her sheet music, and the teeny-tiny montage of the four seasons at the top:

Copy of musician 001

Monday, February 21, 2011

Fw: Letter to the Editor: Re Rosie deManno Sun Feb 20/11

NEW! Click here to show support and help bring "Daniel" home. If you don't see the LIKE button, try looking at the upper left side of my blog homepage.

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, February 21, 2011 4:56 PM
Subject: Letter to the Editor: Re Rosie deManno Sun Feb 20/11

Re: "I am praying to God for me to come back.", Rosie deManno, Sunday February 20, 2011
We are neighbours of Daniel, Rebecca and David. We first met them when they moved to our neighbourhood two years ago, and my kids were thrilled to have another child living on the street. This family opened their home for holidays; we spent time with them in synagogue, in the park, on the street, potlucks... everywhere. Daniel came and read to our younger children every single Shabbat afternoon. What should I tell them when they ask when he will be back?
We all miss him so much here, where he should be growing up; instead, he's in a group home downtown, cruelly barred from his synagogue, his rabbi, his community - and the only people he has ever called Mom and Dad. I thought there were laws against treating people, let alone kids, this way in our civilized society.
When they first moved here, I felt honoured to be part of a community that would take in a child and give him a "forever home" where he felt safe and loved. Rebecca and David are the kind of parents any child would want: cautious and attentive but never hovering. Not wealthy by any means (and now down $50,000 in legal fees!), what they lack in material lifestyle, they make up for with the clear message that Daniel is their most precious possession.
A few months before Daniel was taken, after a wonderful Shabbat afternoon visit with him, I wrote, "It's a relief... that the system sometimes works...and everybody benefits." Now - to be separated from one's child; as a parent, this is my worst nightmare. For Daniel, life these days must be far worse than any nightmare - and he has little hope of being allowed to wake up until someone intervenes and strips Jewish Family and Child Service of its vengeful power over this family's lives.
He cannot possibly be in a safer, more nurturing place now than he was in his cozy home a few doors down. Please let Jewish Family and Child Services know that Daniel belongs to our entire community, and we will not let go of him easily.
Yours truly,

Reading and writing on the fridge


Naomi Rivka:  “Are we having kinderlach for Shabbos?”

Me (puzzled):  “Well… you, and Gavriel Zev; Yerachmiel, Elisheva…”

Naomi Rivka:  “No, I mean lokshen kugel!”

Seems I have utterly failed to teach her any Yiddish.  Oy!

The New-kelele: A drama in 3 acts

ACT ONE:  The gift

bday 134Naomi Rivka:  It’s my birthday!  What’s this?  A brand-new, yellow ukulele???  Why, it’s lovely!  I will hold it, cradle it like a baby, cuddle it with the head end up!



bday 161  bday 165

Plink, plink, plink.

bday 162

Gavriel Zev:  No!!!  I must have this ukelele all for myself!

ACT TWO:  The inspiration

  bday 168 

Gavriel Zev:  Hmm… so that’s how it’s done.

ACT THREE:  The mad genius at work/playbday 170 bday 172

Gavriel Zev:  See???  I’m a natural!  Strum, strum, strum!  “Did you ever see a bee, singing as well as me?”  down by the BAY!!!!  [if anybody reading this remembers what his verse ACTUALLY said, please let me know!!]

bday 023

Naomi Rivka:  Oh, well… I guess I’ll survive.

This is the very last Naomi birthday related post for this year, I promise!!!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Menu Planning Monday #33: 17 Adar 1, 5771

image Why the weird dates? Click here to find out!  Other “weekly challenges”:

We’re a Jewish family of 6 (2 parents, 4 kids) and all our meals are kosher.  Read my MPM intro here or just visit my big ol’ list of Everything We Eat.  We eat mostly vegetarian, with one vegan meal every single week – on Vegan Vursday, of course!

Yes, I’m back… after over a year with no break except Pesach last year, I took a break.  But now I’m back on the wagon.  Yay, me!  I have to tell you, it was scary, travelling through our suppers without a flight plan last week.  We made it, with mostly nice suppers every night, but I am happy to be planning ahead again.

imageSo:  I cannot tell you how much FUN it was to delete every single class and program on tomorrow’s schedule.  We don’t have President’s Day, but it’s FAMILY DAY now here in Ontario (as of two years ago?).

That doesn’t mean it’s a no-school day.  In fact, everybody is doing their normal thing.  Elisheva has school, YM has school, Ted has school work. 

So naturally, we here at home will be learning, too!  Nice; Ted has to take the car because the subway doesn’t start ‘till 9 am on public holidays, so we get a (hopefully) snowy cold quiet day here at home, to unwind from our crazy busy birthday-party weekend.

And here’s what we will be eating:

Sunday (tonight):  Naomi’s birthday supper!  She chose:  chicken (shake n’ bake) with small roasted potatoes, carrots, potato chips, cake.  At at Mommy’s, followed by a minor family jam session.

Monday (stores closed, no car):  Warm hearty chili with some kind of bready thing on top

Tuesday (Ted late, me tutoring in evening):  Broccoli soup, rosemary-roasted-potato-garlic bread

Wednesday:  Swedish meatballs (mushroom sauce) with rice

Thursday (vegan vursday!!!):  Some kind of stir-fry with nice, firm tofu (note to self:  freeze it well ahead of time for better texture!!!)

Shabbos:  Huh?  there’s another Shabbos coming???  No way!

Here’s where I admit to my Deal with the Devil.  Starting tomorrow (Monday), I am washing every single dish in the house, doing all the laundry, and generally keeping order within the day-to-day chaos that is our home… while Ted abandons his year-round Head Dishwasher post to shift into high gear on Pesach Patrol. 

Yikes!  Less than two months to go.

What’s coming up on your table this week???

Gattegno & Cuisenaire Rods: Elementary Math Video

image I’ve been slowly working my way through these three rather long math videos. 

If you’re wondering whether Cuisenaire Rods could be helpful in your child’s introduction to math, these segments, taken from a 1964 National Film Board of Canada documentary, suggest that they can help ANY child visualize and concretize even complex arithmetical, fractional and algebraic relationships.

The kids in this film certainly act like uniformed little zombies, but I suspect that’s typical of schoolchildren-on-video of the day, and not a result of Gattegno’s methods or the Cuisenaire rod materials.  It’s kind of cute and kind of brainless, all at once.

The film is available in 3 parts.  More math musings after the video segments.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

imageThe entire film is hosted and/or scripted by Caleb Gattegno, a somewhat renowned Egyptian/European/Canadian (?)  teacher who wrote extensively on educational theory and developed a Cuisenaire-like system for teaching reading that is the most godawful complicated thing I have ever seen.  I guess that should make me nervous about his approach to math, but somehow, it doesn’t. 

Nevertheless, I would love to see one of his textbooks, which are still in print in the UK as Mathematics with Numbers in Colour, and which have been revised (I think) in the US and/or released by the late Gattegno’s company in an updated form as Visible & Tangible Math.

I have been looking for a systematic way of continuing at least some math work with Cuisenaire Rods that isn’t Miquon… but it doesn’t seem like this is it, at least in a homeschool setting, because on neither site is there a hint of how to actually obtain the textbooks, and anyway, I’m not buying anything without a preview.

There are some magnet and/or private schools in the US set up around Gattegno’s principles.  I don’t necessarily want the principles, but I would like to be able to see his methods and/or workbooks up close.

p.s.  Amazing Discovery!

I have just discovered, through this semi-rabid paper about Israeli math curricula, and from other sites, that Cuisenaire Rods are associated with the very, very worst of the hated “NEW MATH” of the 1950s and 1960s.  In the minds of older educators, they are apparently both emblematic and synecdochal – they represent the entire system as a foul whole, and are its hated flag held high over the scrimmage.

I wonder how this all fits in with what Susan Wise Bauer and Jesse Bauer term “parts-to-whole vs whole-to-parts instruction.”  At the grammar stage, they advocate the same parts-to-whole methodologies that bring you phonics-based reading programs vs sight-word-based reading programs.  They’d probably also come out in favour of counting and drill vs intuition and exploration in the Cuisenaire-based programs.

Nevertheless, I can easily imagine ways to make this type of program more rigourous and provide a solid, unimpeachable foundation.  Perhaps Gattegno had the answers.  Meanwhile, tonight’s bedtime reading:  WHATEVER HAPPENED TO NEW MATH?

Birthday Party for a Girl Who Is 6

All the spoon doll princesses, lined up in a row…

party 007

I forget the names the girls gave them.  Should have written them down!  Naomi’s is on the far right. 

This was a harder craft than I anticipated, especially after my sister (who came at 10 o’clock!  amazing!) suggested that braids might look wonderful on the dollies.  All the girls wanted braids, none could do them herself; it took a while to get all that braiding done.  There were also a few other steps that the girls couldn’t do alone – attaching the skirt, tying the bows, even beading the little jingle-bell necklace.  Basically, all they could do was decorate the skirt and draw on the faces.

Anyway, that took about an hour longer than I anticipated, but… then came our next craft:  a REAL princess isn’t afraid to get her hands a little dirty!

Here are the 4 egg-carton planters I made this morning – they each have a see-through plastic wrap window taped on top – so tight you can’t see them!

party 002

And here’s Naomi’s, filled, planted and watered.

planter 001

A little sign I made for the girls to take home.  Feel free to click for a larger printable jpg which you can print and use yourself. image

Happy birthday to you!  (she’s getting a real cake tonight – this was just the cupcake version)

naomi alone