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Showing posts from May, 2013

Spiderman vs the Math Frogs (a small math lesson in humility)

Just in case we needed more reminders that what works for one kid does NOT work for others… with Naomi Rivka, manipulatives were the thing for math.  What she sees when she sees the math frogs is “MATH frogs.” They helped her concretize, see it, feel it; they were great.  With a little creative thinking on my part, these little froggies have illustrated so many things – grouping for addition, arrays for multiplication, sorting by various criteria, patterns, weights, measures, division, and waaaaay more. But with Gavriel Zev, it turns out, not so much. What he sees when he sees the math frogs are the “math FROGS!!!!”  With many insane exclamation marks on the end, because who wouldn’t go nuts when confronted with the sheer madness of about a million shiny colourful plastic frogs?  Oh, yeah, and who cares about the math? Sure, he’ll put up with them for a minute or two, so I can regroup the same seven frogs into five-and-two or six-and-one.  But only if spiderman gets to watch, and

Parsha Skills Worksheets – Shelach

Haven’t done one of these in a good while, but at least I have come up with a catchy name for them:  Parsha Skills Worksheets (click to see previous worksheets). My goal with these is to introduce some basic Chumash vocabulary and grammar (to kids AND their parents!), reinforce it through fun activities, and give kids the confidence to read/write an actual passuk from each weekly parsha.  Somebody at the Torah Home Ed Conference mentioned dictation, and although I hadn’t given it much thought in connection with these, it seems like a fairly natural progression, so I have added a note at the end of the last page, following the “spelling test” (which is in itself a form of dictation):  If student is very comfortable with the vocabulary, dictate the copywork verse to him/her. Read it aloud twice first, very slowly. Then, let the student write (on a lined page) as much as he/she remembers. Praise the student for effort, not exact duplication of the passuk. By the way, I present these

Impressions Part III – Torah Home Ed Conference, the sessions

First of all, one of my biggest happy impressions – as always, when speaking to homeschoolers in the US – was, thank goodness I live in Canada!  While other people talk about curriculum and reporting and consulting and government interference and accountability, I basically sit back and close my eyes and wait for all that boring stuff to be over. In case you are in the U.S., let me explain what we had to do, in terms of accountability and paperwork, when we decided to homeschool our two youngest children:  we decided to homeschool them.  Period.  The law here is a bit blurry and opinions are divided on whether it’s necessary to file a Notice of Intent to Homeschool if your kids have never been in school.  Anyway, we never have, for the younger kids (both older kids have been officially “homeschooled” at one time or another, as this is required to take certain Ministry-funded high school correspondence courses). But that’s not really a conference thing, just me walking through the cr

The Family Torah: BUY MY BOOK! (and an FAQ)

Never rains but it pours, and after weeks of neglecting this blog, I have poured my heart out today, trying to capture all my impressions of the homeschool conference before they’re gone. But I do want to stop for a minute and ask readers to consider buying my book, The Family Torah , a project I’ve poured my heart into for the last few months (wrapping up a few years’ work of originally writing these as free parsha summaries each week). Based on talking to people endlessly about the book at the Torah Home Education Conference yesterday, here are a few quick answers to the most basic questions: What’s the main idea of the book? The Family Torah tells the story of the Torah in plain English in a way that can be easily read aloud.  How did you choose what to include? I included everything! Well, not quite.  Going through the Torah parsha by parsha, I tried to include every major component of the narrative, while at the same time cutting things down for brevity where the Torah

Impressions Part II – Torah Home Ed Conference

Oy, vey!  Vendors, Curriculum, Yay! I’ve already posted about everything BUT the conference.  Turns out, there is just too much to say to put even the conference stuff into a single post.  So I’ll start with what seemed to me the biggest difference from previous years – limudei kodesh vendors and curriculum creators. All the cravings I’ve had in the past years for booths and vendors and people talking up their materials, all my wildest curriculum-crazed dreams, came true - a little bit.   Not, probably, in the way they would have if I were Christian attending a Christian homeschool conference, in which case I’d have dozens of programs to choose from for every little subject (Bible-based handwriting, anybody?  Faith-based science or history curriculum?).  But, as I say, a little. As an outsider, this seems to have been the year in which something tipped and suddenly, people are realizing that frum people are homeschooling (gasp! regardless of occasional silly articles that may appe

Seen these? Frum toys, a rant

These just popped up in an ad on a frum site:  Binyan Blocks . (I like how they coyly say it’s “compatible with other leading brands.”  That means Lego.) It’s a cute idea, except that in a $65 set of 778 pieces, maybe about 30 of the pieces are special frum ones – ie the heads, hats and upper bodies of the minifigs (mentschies).  I do like the fact that – in addition to the Large Shul - there’s an ambulance (Shomrim) and firetruck set.  I love the idea that kids can grow up with the idea of Jews with hats and beards – Jews who look just like their dads! – as action heroes.  It beats the pants of drawing kippahs on the regular Fisher-Price mentschies, which is what I used to do years ago. These seem to go hand-in-hand with another “picturing Jewish life” toy I’ve seen in stores here for a few years now:  the Mitzvah Kinder .  They’re more meant to go up against the Fisher-Price type dolls for younger children, I suppose, and again, I applaud the manufacturers’ idea to introduce a

Impressions Part I – Torah Home Ed Conference

So this is a whirlwind of impressions from the last whirlwind 5 days of travel…  I just want to get some thoughts down before Life gets in the way.  First of all, if you’re visiting this blog for the first time and met me at the conference… Hi!  I apologize to everybody; I was operating at 40% of my normal energy level for most of the weekend, and I hope it didn’t show too badly. In chronological order… here are my memories of the weekend: - Friday, erev Shabbos:  Arrive late due to bus driver malfunction (he had to be hauled off in an ambulance).  By the time we get to Baltimore, I am sick and miserable and exhausted with what is perhaps the worst headache of my life (partly due to caffeine deprivation but mainly not).  Meet blog-world friend Michelle , who I’ve seen at the last 2 conferences.  This year, she brought her daughter, Froggy (not her real name, though it would be cute), aged 7 (almost 8), and she and Naomi tentatively meet each other.  By sundown, they’ll be getting alo