Sunday, September 30, 2012

Leftover Chocolate Coating?

DSC04218If you’re dipping macaroons or any other dessert and you have extra chocolate left over at the end, grab some popsicle sticks (or skewers, or not, if you don’t have anything)… and dip whatever you’ve got handy, then pop it in the freezer!

These are bananas and marshmallows; it would probably work with lots more kinds of fruit.  We had frozen chocolate-coated bananas all the time as kids, but Ted had never tried one and claims it’s his new favourite dessert.

Sukkos (First Days) Meal Plan 5773/2012







Out – W’s - MEAT


honey cake!

(big round one)


* Squash Soup

Salmon puff pastry

* Mushroom/Broc Crepes

* Crunchy Cheese

Apple Kugel

Vegs kugel from Shabbos

Any leftover desserts


J’s - MEAT


Salsa g fish

Beef / Split Pea Soup

Shepherd’s Pie

Apple Kugel (makes 2 round)

PAREVE Desserts:

Smores cookie bars

Honey Cake

Mommy/J/B/ Sara? - DAIRY


Salsa g’fish

Green beans salad

Carrots salad

Potto Corn Chowder

Lasagna (zuke / spinch)

DAIRY desserts

Pumpkin Pie (easy!)

Honey Cake

Crossed out = done so far!

* = Cook on Yom Tov

Pumpkin Noodles aka Lokshin (& Pumpkin Lokshin Kugel)

DSC04197 Don’t be disappointed… this is more of a state of mind than a recipe.  Okay, more of a technique, but that sounds all boring and pretentious.

First, have some leftover pumpkin.  You can buy it tinned, but at this time of year, pumpkins are cheap and plentiful (not as cheap as they will be come November 1st!).  Roasting them is easy, so don’t bother boiling (that’s what I used to do – cut up & boil – why???).  Cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds, place face-down on a pan (I use tinfoil because they get messy).  Roast at whatever temperature your oven is at (300-350) until you can poke through the skin & flesh with a skewer.  Done!

When cool (I just leave them in the oven overnight, where fruit flies can’t find them) purée in food processor.

(while you’re waiting for them to cool, read this heartfelt entreaty about why you must buy a pasta maker)

Now for the noodles.  You won’t use the whole pumpkin for noodles, so maybe divide it in half, or into 1-cup portions, or something.  Start with a 1-cup portion of pumpkin to begin with.

NOTE:  It looks like there’s a lot of text here.  That’s just because I’m detail-oriented aka obsessed.  Here are the basic steps, first, to demystify the process:

  1. Make a TOUGH, firm dough with pumpkin as the liquid.  Let rest.
  2. Roll nice and thin, preferably with a pasta maker.
  3. Cut into noodles, preferably with a pasta maker.
  4. Dry noodles.
  5. Cook or freeze noodles as desired.

See – easy?  Here are some of the details:

Pasta can be made with just about any liquid and flour – all-egg is the authentic italian way, with semolina flour for good measure.  All-purpose and plain water is at the other end of the spectrum, not very authentic, not deeply tasty, but it yields a decent white noodle.  So take your cup of puréed pumpkin, add some salt for flavour, and mix it with enough all-purpose OR semolina flour (a bit at a time so you don’t go over) that you get a VERY firm dough.  I do this in the food processor – it doesn’t turn into a soft ball of dough, like for bread, but stays looking like “crumbs” until I pull it out and knead it a bit on the table.  The firmer the dough, the better.  Too soft and it won’t go through the pasta machine and it’ll be sticking everywhere like a nightmare.

Leave the dough 20 minutes for it to become “chometz.”  This is how I explain it to my kids… at Pesach, we don’t wait 20 minutes, during the year, we must for any dough to become workable.  (the 20 minutes most recipes tell you to wait is rounded up from the 18 minutes that halacha says we must complete matzah in or the grain begins to swell, activating the gluten and strengthening the dough)

Now, start rolling!  I won’t describe that step, except to say that I hope you have a pasta maker.  I rolled these out to about a 5, I think.  Thinner than that is very difficult to manage.  Use plenty of flour, and do a bit at a time, keeping the rest covered in a bowl.  When it’s rolled out thin, dust with flour and run it through the cutting rollers – I used the thin cutters for these. 

Catch the noodles as they come out and dust them with even MORE flour.  Dance them around in the flour until they’re thoroughly coated, then gather them into a “nest” and place on a clean, floured cotton towel (no terry cloth – it may get stuck to the pasta).  For faster drying, I elevate the towels on top of cooling racks (see above).

Repeat the rolling and cutting steps until noodles are complete.  They can be used immediately or dried overnight.  Use right away OR spread on cookie sheet to freeze.  Transfer to large airtight baggie when frozen.

Cooking time for fresh pasta is about 4 minutes… as long as it takes for the noodles to float to the top of well-boiling, salted water. 

Just a warning note:  whatever flavouring you use in pasta/noodles does NOT impart a strong taste to the finished dish.  That can be disappointing or it can be nice.  You will not get a strong “hit” of pumpkin when you bite into these… it’ll be more of a subtle undertone.  It is definitely a lot of work for a final product not much different from what you can buy in a store.  But learning to make pasta is important for filled pastas like ravioli and tortellini that are almost impossible to find kosher.  Plus, the texture is slightly different; you control it, in part, based on how thin you roll the noodles and how long you cook them.  In any event, I rarely make unflavoured pasta because it’s so much easier to buy.

Now, for the kugel.  This part’s easy!

Cook your noodles… Mmmmm…. drain well and oil immediately to prevent sticking.


Grab some veg and process them into tiny bits (I used one carrot, 2 peppers and an onion):


Add with oil, eggs, salt, pepper to noodles:


How much oil?  Enough to make it very slippery.  How many eggs?  One more than you think is necessary.  I have always been stingy with eggs in kugels, but in fact, they help keep the kugel moist and delicious.  Don’t skimp!  The mixture should like creamy, like pancake batter.  If you’re concerned about the seasoning, test by making a couple of “pancakes / latkes” on a heated skillet:


Mmm… at this point, my brain exploded, it tasted SO good.

Pour into pan(s) – keeping an even proportion of eggs, noodles, veg in each:


Bake until barely set in the middle!  (see the pumpkin seeds I baked alongside?)


For a moist kugel, don’t overbake.  It should be SOLID in the middle, ie not jiggly, but not overly brown on top.  This looks underdone because my flash washed it out, but in fact it was decently browned and absolutely perfect inside.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Gavriel Zev’s Sukkos Signs

Thanks to Ted, the sukkah is up!


And thanks to GZ’s no-nonsense signmaking – none of those tacky bright colours or illustrations for him – our guests can truly be welcomed in style:


(this says “Happy Soces” = Sukkos)


All who are hungry… come and eat!  Oh, wait – wrong chag!

Pareve Potchkedik Pumpkin Pastries

DSC04195In case you weren’t aware, “potchkedik” means “almost too much trouble to bother.”  Remember that ALMOST!  Lots of steps and annoying and nonsense… but sometimes, very worthwhile.

But at this time of year, my thoughts wildly turn to pumpkin and so I was sucked in by these “Crispy Pumpkin Purses” from Jamie Geller’s site, Joy of Kosher, and decided to make them for erev Yom Kippur.  Of course, as I said in this post, that might not exactly be the best time to savour delicious and effortful food… as my mother said the other day, “we used to just eat a boiled chicken; chicken, and chicken soup.”  Luckily, we now have “extras” in the freezer, so we can enjoy them another time.

These are basically rice-stuffed samosas, with a few nice touches. 

The filling is a mix of puréed roasted pumpkin and pre-cooked risotto.  Risotto should be fairly “creamy” when cooked (though pareve).  Because I was making these pareve, I used the non-dairy option of substituting mushrooms for the cheese in the filling.  They would be quite yummy with a bit of curry in the seasoning, and could make a more substantial side dish with some cooked ground beef or turkey stirred in.


In your “spare” time, make the dough and roll it out nice and thin… thank you, pasta maker for making this step quick and easy!  You could do it with a rolling pin as well, but why not invest in a pasta maker now and amortize it out over the hundreds of times you’ll use it for the rest of your life…??? 

Excuse me for a moment, while I interrupt this post for a quick pasta-maker salespitch:

I love this tool!  If you love pasta, keep kosher, and can’t find decent ravioli, tortellini, bowties, etc., then you need one of these!  It’s heavy, solid steel – it’ll probably outlast all of us except the cockroaches (except the clamp that came with it, which was made of cheap plastic and broke within the first year – so I bought a heavy-duty C-clamp at a hardware store for $3 that works WAY better).  Also, and I’m not a rabbi, but there is a possibility that because it’s NEVER used for hot or cooked foods, that you could potentially buy an inexpensive used one and simply clean it off and toivel it for use in a kosher kitchen.  I found one on Craigslist for $10 that I bought to use with Sculpey years ago.

Anyway, here it is, with the pasta all rolled out in MINUTES, thinner and more even than you could ever get it with a rolling pin.


Add filling to pastry…

 DSC04182 DSC04185

Fold pastry over and cut…

  DSC04187 DSC04188

(not shown – seal pastries well with a fork; this roller cuts impressively but does NOT give a good, tight seal)


Shallow-fry… these could probably be baked, but I wouldn’t want to risk it the first time around.


And serve with plum sauce!


They were quite good… I think they need a little more of a flavour burst, so might try either curry or just more salt / pepper etc next time.

Tiny Toy Torah Envy – Crochet-Style

DSC04199My friend Sara has made quite a name for herself online crafting this sweet little Tiny Toy Torah (instructions  here; rather nice copycat here), and being full of envy and wanting my kids to have a “different” plush Torah for simchas Torah, I just went ahead and crocheted one instead.

One side is thicker than the other so you can roll the rectangular piece onto it and still tuck it into its case. (I have rolled it up tightly to hopefully “block” some of the wibbliness in the rectangular section.)

What case, you ask???  Well, it’s more of a cloak, and it’s a work in progress.  Hopefully finished by motzaei Shabbos, because we don’t crochet on yom tov, so that’ll be my last chance.

  DSC04198  DSC04200

It looks a little wonky in the pictures, but I think it’s rather sweet… blank klaf and all. 

Parsha Poem: Ha’azinu / הַאֲזִינוּ

דְּבָרִים / Devarim / Deuteronomy 32:1-32:52: Read ithear itcolour it.

Printable PDF version here.


No parsha narrative overview this week – we’ve been busy!
Copywork and parsha activities available at this page – updated weekly.

image A song, sung by Moshe, at the end of his life:

Listen, O heavens!  Listen, O earth!
Hashem is the one who gave you your birth;
Hashem is the Rock, He is great, strong and pure,
Cling to Him now and your lives are secure.

Though it may seem that He will destroy,
Remember forever, you are His great joy;
Our Father He is and our Master will be,
So take heed of His words most seriously.

If you forget now the promise He made,
Your elders beseech, for His message betrayed;
As no special deeds or accomplishments came
To you before he bestowed His great name.

He swept you aloft with His presence so regal,
Carrying you higher, borne as an eagle;
Gave you the best of all the land’s things,
All the sweet foods and the riches it brings.

And yet you forgot Him and turned from His ways,
As He hid His face for a lifetime of days.
Terrible punishments soon would ensue,
Rivals invading as famine wind blew;

Enemies crowing, rejoicing our doom,
Raising their lies over Israel’s tomb.
If they were wise, they would think of their fate,
Remember Hashem, long before it’s too late.

For their destiny, too, will arrive before long,
The victorious end at the end of this song;
Vengeance is His and to Him all the earth,
Hashem’s is the healing that brings our rebirth.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Birthday Baby Boy

DSC04144It’s a problem, being born the day after Yom Kippur.  He asked last year and this year when his actual birthday starts, and I said that when he hears the shofar, he’ll know he’s 5.  But by then, most of us aren’t really feeling like partying, though we did attempt some minor gift-giving after the breaking-the-fast meal to accommodate my sisters’ weird schedules.  So this year, we decided to do his birthday beforehand instead, barring any decent Sunday party dates in the near future.

imageAnyway, the point is, it’s NOT his birthday yet!!!  Why does that matter?  Because we have three more nights of nummies left before he turns 5 and then I’m done for good.  And yes, it’s a sentimental thing, and I think I’ll be okay, but even though he’s a big boy, I think we’ll both miss the closeness.

Anyway, moving on: I love this expression on his face as the cake arrives.  “OMG, really, it’s really MY birthday?!?  It’s happening at last!!!”

He has been talking up and planning his birthday as the Awesomest Day Ever and surprisingly, he doesn’t seem to have been disappointed in the least by the haul despite the fact that I kind of sic’d (sicced?) this date on everybody by surprise. 

Both Ted and Sara didn’t have gifts ready yet, but my brilliant sister Sara compensated in the most marvellous way by (okay, this is going to SOUND cheesy, but really – Sara, if you’re reading this, there was no need to apologize) wrapping up two library books.  It sounds cheesy, right?  But the kids were delighted.  The first, for Gavriel Zev, was the Stephane Jorisch edition of Edward Lear’s The Owl and the Pussycat, a placeholder for the actual gift, which I think will be The Quite Remarkable Adventures of Owl & Pussycat, an Eric Idle (of Monty Python fame) “novelization” of the poem.  Complicated, but the point is – there was a package and he opened it, and enjoyed (briefly) looking at the book inside before being distracted by everything else going on.  For Naomi, there was another package bearing a Pippi Longstocking book (Pippi Goes on Board, I think).  Sara has slowly read two Pippi books with them so far, which is fantastic, because they would never have occurred to me.  I tried to read them as a kid and found them much too weird (though I enjoy listening now while she reads).

Another highlight was a pair of binoculars from my mother.  He has not been asking for them or begging for them or whining for them; what makes his deep desire even more poignant is that he has simply been saying, about a million times a day, “when it’s my birthday and I have my binoculars…”  So now, it’s his birthday and he has his binoculars.  They were a cheapie pair my mother got free with something.  But, though lightweight, they work reasonably well, and the inexpensive gift is balanced by the fact that she’s also buying “him” another Science Centre membership, which costs $100+.  (can’t find any coupon codes as I did last year, so we may have to pay full price :-()

Which brings us to the handmade portion of the gift-giving evening…

He recognized the crochet-Frankie I made last night INSTANTLY and enthusiastically, discarding the rings from his hands immediately and without a second glance.  This Frankie had written a note to GZ, and Naomi read it aloud because GZ was deep into an “I can’t read” act.”  He promptly announced that the “original Frankie” was lost – despite his having been seen over breakfast – and that this was the perfect replacement.  I suggested that the original might someday be found and that they could play together.


(when we got home, the original WAS found, and the two DID play together, albeit a little wildly, at bedtime)

But in my mind, the crowning glory was this amazing superhero cape, handmade by an awesomely talented friend and her sewing machine.  Not only is this cape the perfect size and fit, but…

 DSC04157 DSC04158 

It perfectly matches the Spiderman pyjamas he got last week for Rosh Hashanah!


A trip down memory lane:  4 years ago this week…

And here’s the Big Birthday Boy today with all his swag – binoculars, foam pirate cutlass and hat, Frankie, cape and all.


The best non-stuff gift of the evening was the prize of walking home alone with Yerachmiel Meir!  GZ is always looking for ways to prove to YM that he’s not a baby so they can do stuff together, and now, nearly five years later, it was sweet to see the two of them heading off into the (well, post-) sunset of the evening. 

It’s been a long five years.  Lots of talk of death over the supper table, me and the littles having come home from visiting graves (or, as I call them, “our quiet relatives”) this afternoon.  To me, that’s not creepy – home is where birth and death and everything in between (including birthday parties) belongs.  I love having thoughts and memories of my grandparents, of my father, present with us at the meal – not in a grim way, but in the happy way that evokes the memorable moments when they were alive.

The first cemetery we went to actually had a Día de los Muertos (Mexican “Day of the Dead”) feel to it.  Not exactly picnics at the graveside, but people coming and going, adults and kids, talking, joking, leaving stones here and there as they passed.  Naomi looked around at the big open field and said, “there sure are a lot of dead people!”  There sure are. 

The other cemetery, more upper-class, was also more subdued.  As if proving the rich have all the advantages, even after death, you don’t have to stoop and hunt for stones there, because they have waist-height cement bowls (like an ashtray, if you remember what those were) full of nice-looking stones.  So we took a bunch of stones and traced our fingers over the names of the family members and visited my father, as he asked me to four years ago (how surreal).  I saved the apple trees for last, and there was actually only ONE apple out of two trees – how pathetic.  It was red outside and reddish-pink inside.  Gavriel Zev said it was sour, but he ate the whole thing.  As for all the advantages, I realized as he was eating it that he should wash first, but for some mysterious reason, the water-taps were shut off – even in the hoity-toity cemetery.

DSC04146To me, these moments are good openings for any number of conversations.  We have read a little about World War II now, so I mentioned how lucky we are to have known our grandparents, to have graves to visit – my father never had that comfort for all the relatives Hitler killed.  Naomi said Hitler sounds like “hit,” so I told her that would make it very easy to remember just how terrible a leader he was.

I guess this is an overly contemplative ending to a post about my son’s birthday, his happy, surrounded-by-family transition into the World of Five.  But it’s a big transition, and somehow, I feel it all fits together:  the graves, the cape, the binoculars, the big brother.  It’s all just part of belonging in this world, and if there really is an age when people start to truly Belong, to figure out this whole stew of happy and sad, the narrow bridge we’re all crossing at every single moment, it’s Five.

I remember being five; it’s small, but nice.  Happy birthday, little guy.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Two Frankies

DSC04139So Gavriel Zev has this little friend named Frankie that he’s been running around with for over a year now.  He adores Frankie, who is a goofy little alien guy with big bug eyes and three wibbly things sticking off his head.  He was part of a set of baby links which have long vanished, and a few months ago, GZ removed the huge plastic links from Frankie’s hands, so now he’s just a regular doll.  Here’s a picture of a brand-new Frankie with some of the linkie things he came with when brand-spanking new.

With his ever-cheerful (but not too cheerful) expression and perpetual willingness to get into and out of bizarre scrapes and difficulties, Frankie has become part of GZ’s hardcore group of “friends” (including Spot and a couple of monkeys) with whom he plays constantly – they have unbelievable adventures together.  You can see that these adventures have “aged” him significantly, but because he’s made of some type of polyester thing,  he’ll probably outlive us all.

While he was playing, GZ he mentioned today that Frankie has no parents (because he’s an adult), which gave me an idea… and since we are celebrating Gavriel Zev’s birthday one of these days (maybe today), I quickly whipped this guy up right after Shabbos…


I even added a few metal links just in CASE the two Frankies want to literally “hang out” together:


The crochet one doesn’t HAVE to be a parent for Frankie, but it can be.  Or just a buddy.  Just so he has some family on this earth; someone a bit like himself.

The yarn is from all over the place, just scraps I had sitting around; some cotton, some acrylic.  I’m a little unhappy with the body not because of the shape but because it’s crocheted in cotton and it’s pretty gappy-looking, especially in the back where you can see the tangle of loose ends I stuffed in there.  And the left foot of my Frankie is hanging at a pretty weird angle.  But overall, I’m very, very happy with the way he turned out. 

AND – of course – with the idea of a zero-cost (except my own exhaustion) birthday present that doesn’t represent any type of over-commercialized Disney / Pixar thing makes me very smuggishly pleased with myself indeed.

Off to bed – a job well done!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Naomi’s Parsha Narration – Good Shabbos!

I haven’t posted many of these lately, but we’re still doing them.  Naomi’s illustrations are more of the stick-person variety than the detailed scenarios she was sketching before, but they are still cheerful and fun.  Today, she wanted to write her own narration – I wouldn’t let her for the main narration (you can see my lousy handwriting down below), but she added her own caption on the left-hand side. 


(the baby carriage floating over the king’s Torah isn’t really floating – it’s in the background)

She got the thing about needing “three things – a chumash, a gemara and a mishna” is from My First Parsha Reader, which said every Jewish home needs these things as part of the mitzvah of writing a sefer Torah.  And then Naomi started correcting me and said, “Every sentence must begin with a capital letter [I write in all-caps, but make the first letter bigger]… and end with a pyramid.”  She meant period, but I drew a little pyramid over the period after Mishna, just to be funny.

Anyway, I am SO proud of her handwriting… isn’t it beautiful?!  Her spelling is also much improved, although she’s still a bit lazy sometimes, even with words we’ve done before.  Some words in here would have given her a very hard time, even just a couple of months ago (people, come, listen, hear).  I didn’t correct any spelling on this (babys, shod, evry).  The point was learning parsha, and parsha she has learned.

Good Shabbos!

Short Parsha Riddles: Nitzavim / נִצָּבִים

דְּבָרִים / Devarim / Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20

Click for printable PDF version.


Don’t forget to read this week’s Parsha Poems (Nitzavim-Vayelech Poem 1 and Poem 2) and parsha overview.  Plus… copywork and parsha activities – something for every week of the year.

פָּרָשָׁת וַיֵּלֶךְ
Parshas Vayeilech
דְּבָרִים / Devarim / Deuteronomy 31:1-31:30

clip_image002[ 1 ]

Moshe is old – at the end of his life,
His days full of travel, of feuding and strife;
Of birthdays, he’s already had good n’ plenty,
And now his last age is __________!

[ 2 ]

If you were nearing your own end,
You might for doctors quickly send,
But if anything, Moshe has more need
Of composers, with great speed!  What was he doing?

[ 3 ]

Of course, a good leader is so hard to find
A leader for me-a and you-a and you-a
But out of the people, one name comes to mind,
And that’s Moshe’s brave young friend, __________!

[ 4 ] BONUS!

This Torah, that Torah – can’t you decide?
How do we know which one’s bonafide?
Well, it seems they’re both true,
Though their meanings construe
Two meanings, practically side by side.  What are they?

[ 5 ]

For men and for women, it’s easy to see
To listen to Hakheil is necessary;
But why bring the babies to hear this old tome,
When it’s far more easy to leave them at home?

STUMPED?? Here are some answers: 
[ 1 ] One hundred and twenty (31:2).
[ 2 ] Writing the song known as Ha’azinu.  Of course, he didn’t need composers either, really; he wrote and taught it to the people himself.
[ 3 ] Yehoshua.
[ 4 ] The phrase “הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת,” this Torah, appears two lines apart (31:9, 31:11) with very different meanings!  The first means a Torah scroll, while the second, Rashi says, refers only to Devarim.
[ 5 ] Adults are rewarded for being there, but children are included, says Rashi (31:12), to reward those who bring them.  Plus, who’d babysit?


May all my readers be sealed for the awesomest of wonderful years.  And yes, this week only (okay, until Hoshana Rabba), I have ensured that Hashem will extend this amazing offer to non-readers as well.  Make sure you click LIKE to reap full benefits!!!!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hands-On Explorations: Math (Geometry with Straws)

Following up on the theme of actually schooling at home, rather than just hanging around the house cooking, cleaning, and letting the kids run around outside like savages, which is what we’ve done a lot of lately…

Yesterday, we did a quick, fun hands-on exploration of geometry which the kids sort of got into… though it’s not as easy as it looks.  The JUMP Math (Grade 2) book said to use straws, but honestly, straws are tough to work with because they’re flimsy and bend when you don’t want them to.  Popsicle sticks or skewers cut in half might be better, because they’re more rigid.

Basically, you start with plasticine balls (about the size of an olive) and create a 2-d shape…


Then “extrapolate” it into 3-d…


Mine was a pentagon, but Naomi’s 2-d shape was a square.  She grudgingly made a pyramid because I asked her to do that first, but what she really wanted was to make a cube…


The cube was frustrating because she insisted on using ONLY pink plasticine, and we didn’t have very much of it left, so the balls at the corner were too tiny to hold the straws in place very well.  I did eventually manage to get it built.  I thought “prismifying” our shapes was such a good idea that I took off the top of my pyramid to create a pentagonal prism:


Gavriel Zev, meanwhile, quickly gave up the straws to create…


Monsieur l’Escargot!  (but hey, aren’t spirals math, too???)

DSC04121Before we got back to the book exercise that correlated with the straw-building, I used the opportunity to review some of the terminology, since this was actually the last page of the geometry strand.  We went over words like VERTEX, VERTICES, EDGE, FACE, plus the names of certain very basic 2-d polygons (SQUARE, CUBE, TRIANGLE, RECTANGLE, PENTAGON) and 3-d shapes (PYRAMID, CUBE, PRISM).  It was also a good, concrete introduction to the concept of dimensionality.

DSC04122Speaking of which, although Naomi was later able to translate her 3-d straw-building skills to the 2-d page easily enough, another workbook page caused no end of difficulty.  In attempting to introduce the concept of counting edges, the 2-d representations of 3-d shapes were so complicated that she repeatedly missed edges on four illustrations out of five.  Very big frown for a book which has otherwise been pretty excellent for our learning styles.

I was particularly discouraged by this page, however, because I saw it as a perfect opportunity to teach what John Mighton emphasizes about helping kids understand the importance of systematic search techniques.  If you’re counting sides of an object, wouldn’t it be helpful to introduce the idea of doing it “in order” rather than just willy-nilly? 

I gave up on the page and helped her through this a bit with REAL geometric solids, showing her that with, say, a triangular prism, you can count all the sides on ONE triangular end (so you get 3, and write it down), then flip it and count the OTHER triangular end (another 3, which you write down).  But of course, you’re not done because there are the edges in between both of those ends – write down another 3.  Then, you have a nice neat stack of 3’s, which is easy to add up (she had the answer long before I asked her to figure it out).image

Using the plastic geometric solids meant I could also take a (washable) marker and show her that you can mark each side as you count it, so you don’t repeat yourself.  This is kindergarten-level stuff, but I figured she’d gotten so muddled by these dashed-lines-crossing diagrams that it was worth showing her it really DID make sense.

I am guessing this particular workbook page was included to meet various provincial curriculum standards, and I do understand that it is accompanied by a very concrete, hands-on lesson… but the fact is, representing 3-d shapes in 2 dimensions is confusing even to adults, and I’m not sure what value is added by making kids in grade 2, with little perspective-drawing experience, do it on paper. In retrospect, I probably should have skipped it.

To wrap this up on a positive note and fully concretize the lesson that two two-dimensional faces meet to form an edge (and create a 3-d shape), I cut out two triangles and three rectangles and had her tape them into a simple triangular prism.  You can find all sorts of print-and-fold nets for prisms and other 3-d shapes online (ooh, here’s a free printable Angry Birds version!), but I wanted one that was created from simple unconnected 2-d shapes.  Forgot to take a picture, but it wasn’t that awesome, just a happy way to finish this off.

image It feels weird to be wrapping up the “year,” watching our math book get thinner and thinner (I tear out 2 pages each day for us to work through), but also nice to see how ready she is to begin the Grade 3 book, which looks scarily more “grown-up” than the Grade 1 and Grade 2 work.  The print is smaller, with fewer pictures and more exercises per page. 

I got lots of ideas at the JUMP workshop I attended over the summer… including the very important concept that she won’t have to complete every single problem on the page.  I knew this already, of course, but the instructor’s suggestion of making sure she could do the first few, then jumping to the end is probably a better solution than alternating problems all the way down the page, which would have been my instinct.  It will be a fun challenge, I think, to keep finding concrete approaches to the math at this level without dumbing it down or making it seem “babyish.”

How’s your math coming along so far this year?  Any breakthroughs?  Or are you happy enough with the same old…?