09 October 2010


The girls are doing History Odyssey from Pandia Press this year. I wish we had started with History Odyssey. It is a wonderful program and I highly recommend it.
Anyway, one of the projects Butterfly had to do was to make maracas as part of a lesson on South America. The book gave us instructions but I decided to go my own way and do what I knew. So we made them out of cups. I used two plastic, disposable cups and filled one with beads (we have tones of small beads we aren’t using for anything). Then we put the open sides together and taped them. We then painted and decorated them. Poor Turtle didn’t get to do this project because she was a little behind on her history assignments. I did one with butterfly, however, and we really had fun. This would be a great rainy day activity. You can use rice, beans, pennies, beads, etc. inside the maracas. You can decorate with paint, paper, stickers, feathers, fabric, etc. Just have fun!

This is Butterfly's; she used stickers and little stick on charms to decorate it.

Mine is the one with the big gold bow.

The view from behind.
Butterfly decorated her's so that whichever way you turned it, it would always be right side up.

A fun project for any age.

The new schedule

Yes, yes, I change our schedule much too much; I think we’ve got it now. One of the benefits of homeschooling is that you can adjust the schedule to your own needs. We’ve found we need less time on some subjects and more on others. Why should they sit around waiting for time to run out when I can fill that time with productive activities?
Our new schedule follows:

7-7:30 Turtle: Bathroom time

7:30-8 Butterfly: Bathroom time

8-8:30 Breakfast

8:30-9 Morning chores and free time (all they are usually required to do is unload the dishwasher from the night before)

9-9:15 Tefillah

9:15-10:15 Box # 1: History

10:15-10:45 Box #2: Science

10:45-11:30 Box#3: Grammar or Vocabulary

11:30-12:00 Box #4: Spelling for Butterfly / Literature for Turtle (usually there is a few minutes left over to have Butterfly read a short story to me.)

12-1:30 Lunch

1:30-2:00 Box #5: Penmanship or Reading Comprehension for Butterfly / Composition or Reading Comp. for Turtle

2:00-2:30 Box #6: Religion or Critical Thinking

2:30-3:00 Box #7: Etiquette 2 times per week, Music and Art once each

3:00 if they have math homework they can do it now otherwise free time until dinner

6 or 6:30 Dinner

7:30 Box #8: Math with Dad (he teaches both of them math)

9:30 Bedtime for Butterfly – Turtle has to go to her room but she can read if she wants to.

10pm Lights out for Turtle

Our schedule is a little different on Monday because Butterfly has dance and Turtle and Dad play tennis. Fridays are catch up days. We finish lessons that we didn’t finish within the week (usually only applies to history) and Butterfly has a vocabulary and spelling test. We also have a Parshah lesson and sometimes a craft activity either for that lesson or something else. We are usually finished by lunch and sometime have a play date in the afternoons. Now, I think my new homeschool group will be having a park day on Wednesdays afternoons so that will cut into some subject, but not the big ones. I’ve purposely placed subjects of lesser importance after lunch so that we can enjoy play dates and other activities without feeling guilty. If we skip a day of reading comp it won’t be the end of the world but if we skip a day of history it isn’t as easy to catch up. Subjects like Spelling must be done every day or we might as well just skip the whole week.

23 September 2010


We've been back in school for a week now. The 2 week break was a bit much for the girls. They started fighting and getting crazy. I think we will try to limit the breaks to 1 week from now on.

We had a good week back. I've started etiquette with them and will do lessons I created from Peggy Post's book 2 times per week.

The bonus this week has been Sukkot. This was always my favorite holiday and I think it is going to be the kids favorite too. Moogoo built us a nice big (not too big) Sukkah this year and we decorated it simply with homemade paper chains (the kids love making them), lantern we got on clearance last year (look for summer clearance sales) and lights we got on sale after Christmas last year. Funny, the box said "Color - White" and we thought it meant the lights. When we opened the box we were not happy to find that the lights were all different colors. The cord is the thing that is white. What's a Jew know about Christmas lights LOL. The colored light look great though and I am now very happy we got them. We love our Sukkah and love spending time out there.

Our simple decorations
The stars on the back wall we made last year and even used them to decorate the house for Hanukkah

The family around the table

05 September 2010

It’s been a while since I’ve updated; life has been hectic. The workbox system is a success but it does mean more work for me. The kids love it and wouldn’t hear of altering a thing. It has the added benefit of helping me stay up to date with the grading but sometimes I am in the school room working on the boxes well into the evening.

Meanwhile, we have left our homeschool group. The leader of the group is also the owner of the dance class Butterfly went to. I found out that last year the girl who taught the class (the leader’s daughter) prayed with the girls. I have a big problem with this as they pray to Jesus and obviously, being Jewish, we do not. I was not told about it and had no idea it was happening. This year the class seems to be much more Christian than last but I am willing to work with it as I do like the girl who teaches it, her mom and the fact that Butterfly was learning well. I respectfully expressed my feelings about the issue and requested that Butterfly be allowed to step out of the room when they pray. I also expressed an objection to Christian music but did say that I understood its use in class for warming up. The response was that they are “strong in [our] convictions” and that I should have good luck finding a new class for Butterfly. I have to say, I was very hurt. I cried about it for days. This woman is supposed to be my friend but refuses to work with me. There was no request to discuss it or attempt to resolve the issue at hand. I would have been happy to find something that would work for both of us but she was wholly disinclined. Given that she is the leader of the homeschool group; I realized that leaving is my only option. I feel hugely discriminated against and think this must have been her way of ousting me from the group. Every one who read her emails to me, took it as a well written ‘f-you.’ Fortunately I was able to find Butterfly a new ballet class but it is a 45 minute drive one way for a 30 minute class. As long as she’s happy…

As the saying goes; when a door closes a window opens. Sometimes we have to open our own windows so I’ve decided to start my own homeschool support and play group. I’ve called it Uncle Remus Homeschool Support Group. Yes, I know it is a long name but Uncle Remus is big in this area. If anyone is interested, the website is http://www.homeschoolsupportgroup.webs.com/ from there you can find links to the yahoo group. So far there are two members (myself included), but I hope it will grow. We are off for the next two weeks for the holidays and I plan to work on the group a little bit and maybe plan a meeting.

Also in the works is a cooking blog. I’d like to do a heymish cooking blog with, what else; simple, homey dishes. Once upon a time, I use to make elaborate gourmet meals but between homeschooling, housework, being a mom and wife my meals have become less complex and more economical. I’m looking forward to sharing my recipes with the world.

Meanwhile, have a good Labor Day weekend. Enjoy your time off with your family and friends and be safe.

02 August 2010


We are on our second week using my version of the workbox system. So far we all like it. It is a little extra work for me but the fact that the day runs smoothly, I don't have to answer "what's next?" and my grading gets done (even when I don't feel like doing it) makes it worth the extra effort.

I thought I'd share with you photos of our system as well as our homeschool room. I still have work to do on the room but it is good for now. I want to add a shelf system to the closet and put our books in there and I have some decorations to put up...

First the work box system:

These are the kid's cards. They are hanging on hooks just inside the door to the room. 
They take their cards from the hooks and then get their first boxes.

This is actually what it looks like when they leave the room; all the numbers are in place.
At the begining of the day the numbers are off the cards and on their boxes.

Turtle likes marine life so I made her cards with that theme.
Butterfly loves to dance so her cards have a ballet theme.

These are their workboxes, on the shelves, with the numbers in place.
The numbers are attached with Velcro dots.
When the girls are done with the contents of the box they remove the number and place it in the appropriate place on their card. When the card is full they are done for the day.

The small box is #4 (the orange one to the right of Turtle's boxes and the blue one on top of Butterfly's boxes) are bento boxes which we keep their snacks in.

Turtle's Workboxes

Butterfly's Workboxes

This next photo is of my desk accross from the door.
To the right in this photo are the shelves the workboxes sit on (although you can't see them in the photo) and to the left in the photo are the girl's desks; you can see Butterfly's in the photo.

Directly across from my desk is the chalk board, a TV (for educational purposes only) the closet (below the clock) and the door to the room.

This next photo is of the girl's desks as seen from my desk.
Butterfly is closest to me.

Finally, another view of the workboxes. This is directly across fromt he girl's desks. 

There you have it! Our workbox system and our homeschool room. I hope you've enjoyed the tour. I'll repost as I change things for the better. I really want to work on the shelves in the closet as this is a very small room and we can use the space. I would also like a nice rug in the middle, just to liven it up a little. If you think this is a strange color for a homeschool room, you are right. The room was first a guest room and then Turtle's bedroom. The room was named, by me, Lavendar Fields as this was my inspiration for the color scheme and somewhere in this house I have a poster of such that was to go above the headboard of the wicker bed we had in here. It is because of this that we have played with the idea of naming our homeschool Lavendar Fields Academy.

26 July 2010

A New School Year Begins!

Back to school
It’s the first day of school for us today. We had a good summer break; too long actually. With the weather being so hot no one wants to go out to play so we’ve been spending most of our days in front of the TV. Twice a week we go to a friend’s house where the girls have been helping their younger friends with reading and math. After they are done working we frequently enjoy an hour at the pool. This, I’ve found, is a nice break of the week for my girls and for me as I get to chit chat with a friend. We will continue to do this until they start school in the fall but only once a week in the afternoons. Sunday’s have become swim days at my parent’s house. They live on a lake and we enjoy taking over their dock and they enjoy the time with their grandchildren. The girls love grandma and grandpa and it is nice to have this time together. We’ll have to find a new excuse to go over there or have them over here when the weather turns cold.

Workbox System

Last school year I got sick of having to answer those inevitable questions; “how much do I have to do?” “Do I have to do the whole lesson?” “How much is left?” All these question bug me to no end. I can’t stand hearing them and I can’t stand answering them. However, I realize that these questions do need an answer.

In my internet travels I came across the Workbox System by Sue Patrick. Sue Patrick created this system for her autistic child. She uses a shoe rack and 12 shoe boxes to implement her system. Please look for her book and speaking events to find out more about how she created the system and how she works it. There are some things I didn’t like about her system. I understand why she uses the system as she does; but all families are different. So the things that didn’t work for us are:
1. I didn’t need 12 boxes. At 4th and 7th grade, I don’t like to give the girls a lot of busy work. They have enough work to do with out trying to fill 12 boxes with a lot of fluff. I also like to follow a time schedule. We have 9 periods during the day. One is for lunch and 1 is for snack. I’ve spaced the day out with adequate time for each subject. Some subjects get more time than others.

2. I don’t have enough room in my homeschool room to put 2 shoe racks with 12 boxes on it. Our homeschool room is in a small bedroom so space is an issue.

3. I don’t like that the books can’t sit flat in the shoe boxes. If you look at photos of how others have implemented the system their books are either folded up or sticking out. I didn’t like that. If they are going to stick out, I’d rather them stand up straight.

With all this in mind I came up with my modified workbox system. Finding the containers was the hardest part. I came up with tons of ideas but none seemed to work. Finally, we just went to the store to see what we could find. I found plastic containers with lids that are big enough to fit a large binder and some other supplies but not too big that they won’t stack on our shelves. I got 7 boxes, 1 for each subject. I also added a small bento box to the stack for snack time so that makes 8 boxes all together.

How they work:

Every evening I fill each box with the appropriate subject’s assignment and everything needed to complete that assignment. I’ll include a small “Work with Mom” card if applicable and directions for completing the assignment.

Each child was given a card with a grid of boxes numbered 1 through 8. To each box I attached, with Velcro, the numbers 1 through 8. When the child is done with the assignment in the box they get to remove the number from the box and put it on their card. They seem to really enjoy this part. I have the cards hanging on hooks just inside the homeschool room door. They take it down when they enter and hang it back up when they leave. A full card means the school day is done and they seem to enjoy this visual reinforcement.

At the end of the day it is my job to go through the boxes and check their work. I also have to refill the boxes with the next day’s assignments. This helps to keep me on track as well. I can’t let myself be lazy and leave my grading for another day.

The following is our daily schedule as well as the books we are using this year. As usual, the times may change if we realize we need more or less time to complete a subject.

7am-8am: Wake up – Showers – Morning chores

8am-9am: Breakfast and free time

9am-9:50: Box #1: History Odyssey

9:55-10:45: Box #2: Singapore Math

10:50-11:20: Box #3: Science: Spectrum (M), REAL Science Odyssey (T&T), History of Science from Beautiful Feet (W)

11:25-11:35: Box #4: (the bento box) Snack (a piece of fruit, a granola bar, etc.)

11:40-12:10: Box #5: Spelling (Butterfly), Literature (Turtle)

12:15-1pm: Box #6: Grammar (M&W): Ridgewood (Butterfly), Rules of the Game (Turtle) / Vocabulary (T&T): Word are Wonderful (Butterfly), Vocabulary from the Roots Up (Turtle)

1pm-2pm: Lunch

2:05-2:35: Box #7: Handwriting (M&W Butterfly) Spectrum Writing (Turtle M&W) OR Reading Comprehension in Various Subject Matter (T&T)

2:40-3:20: Box #8: Religion: The Content of Their Character from Torah Aura (M&W Turtle) Alef Celebrations (M&W Butterfly) and Critical Thinking: Ridgewood Analogies (T&T)

3:30: Afternoon chores: M: Bathroom and Kitchen; T: Living Room and Sun Room; W: Bedrooms; T: Family Room and Homeschool Room; F: Touch up and get ready for Shabbat

6:30 Dinner

9:00 Bed Time 9:30 Lights out for Butterfly but Turtle can stay up a little longer and read if she wants to.

Fridays our schedule is a little different:

Box #1: History

Box #2: Math

Box #3: Music or Art

Box #4: Snack

Box #5: Spelling Test (Butterfly); Literature (Turtle)

Box #6: Internet Literacy (Turtle) Vocabulary from the Roots Up (Butterfly)



3pm-5pm: Park Day with the homeschool group

That's us in a nut shell; a very appropriate place for us!

01 June 2010


It has been a long time. We've been working hard, trying to get to the end of the school year. Last week they did their PASS tests (standardized tests are required every 3 years) and now we are DONE until July 19. I've already ordered all the books for the next school year and waiting patiently for them to come. As they arrive I've been piling them on the family room coffee table...any more and we won't be able to see the t.v.

Turtle has camp in a few weeks. She is going away for 2 weeks and can't wait. This means a lot of prep. She needed new summer clothes (she just won't stop growing) and the list the camp gave us seems endless. This has nothing to do with butter however so I better get to that before you think I've lost my mind.

Over the weekend we realized we were out of butter. My family loves hot cereal in the morning for breakfast with butter and cream in it but being Memorial day weekend, in a resort area, I was NOT going to the store. This seemed like a perfect time to try making our own butter. This is a project I have been wanting to do for a while. I honestly didn't think it would be as easy as it is.

To make your own butter, take a jar and fill it half way with heavy cream. Close it tight and hand it to your kids. Let them shake, shake, shake; an up and down movement seems to be best. It will slosh around in the jar for a few minutes and then they will tell you that it feels like nothing is sloshing anymore. It will get a little harder to shake. This is the whipped cream stage. Keep shaking! All of a sudden it will get easier to shake and you'll see the chunks of butter separate from the buttermilk. Keep shaking until you get a glob of butter. From 1 cup of cream you'll end up with half a cup of butter and half a cup of buttermilk. We simply drain the buttermilk from the butter and stick each in their own jar. We add a scant 1/4 tsp. salt to the 1/2 cup of butter we get (we fill each jar with 1/2 cup cream and that gives us 1/4 cup each of butter) and stir it together. Then I cover the jar and put it in the refrigerator.

I've seen where people gently squeeze the butter in a cheesecloth and then put the butter back into the jar with some very cold, fresh water. They mix it together and then shake the jar again. Drain the water and then add some more and repeat until the water is clear. This gets out all the buttermilk and helps lengthen the life of the butter. We haven't done this yet as the butter doesn't seem to stick around long anyway. Maybe with a bigger batch we will try it.

To store it, we simply put it back in the jar but I've read where people use a butter bell (it is on my wish list) or put it in a jar, packed as much as possible then top with fresh cold water. They even store it out of the refrigerator (which would just bother me too much).

My kids love making the butter. They now want to try different brands of cream to see if it makes different tasting butter. We are going to pick up organic cream (which I think tastes better) for the next batch.

Oh, and that wonderful buttermilk! If you don't like buttermilk try the buttermilk that comes from your butter making. It isn't as tart and has a wonderful creamy flavor. We would like to try making pancakes with it, but can't seem to keep from drinking it, it is so good.

This is a fun project that you can make part of your science or history class. If you are doing a unit study on Colonial times or reading the Little House books, this would really be fun along with making homemade white bread, corn bread or biscuits (which you can use the buttermilk for). If you happen to take a field trip to a dairy (maybe as part of a unit study on farms) see if you can get some fresh cream as I bet that would make the best butter. I may have to become friends with the people who own the dairy down the road. Even if you can't, a talk about all the wonderful products that come from dairy cows will go along well with this project as well as some homemade ice cream and maybe some cheese.

As a side note...I've seen how other people make this with their stand mixer and the beater attachment. I have not tried this as it is more fun for the kids to use a jar. It is also less of a mess and less dishes to wash; so I think we'll keep doing it this way.

Next time, I'll take some pictures to share.

02 March 2010

Lunch idea

I was doing a little looking around the internet for homeschool ideas. I love reading other homeschooling blogs and seeing what other moms are doing to make their days work for them and their children. I found this fun idea that seems to be a big trend for lunch. It is called Muffin Tin Monday and you can find the website FAQ here. Basically you serve your child lunch in a muffin tin or muffin cups. There are themes each week (the next one, for example, is Yellow) that you can find on the site and they encourage you to post your photos for all to see. This is a great idea for little little ones as it is a great way to introduce different foods in a fun way.

They remind me of bento box lunches. I love bentos! Bento is Japanese for lunch and if you do a search for bentos you'll find a lot of different box styles and the most amazing ideas for filling them. We have a few different boxes and I use to send the kids to school with their bentos every day. The other kids were alway jealous of their great lunches and fund lunch boxes. This muffin tin idea is very similar to bento boxes so even though you may think my kids are a little old for this I think we may try this muffin tin Monday idea. It is also a good way to keep serving sizes in check as this is always an issue for Turtle and I. Yes, I'll even make myself a muffin tin lunch. Moms can have fun too!

16 February 2010

Teaching the Bible in Public School

I was watching the news this morning and heard something that made me very thankful I homeschool. It seems a school in Tennessee will be using the Bible as literature in a public high school. While I agree that the Bible could be used as such, and I agree that knowledge of the Bible can be useful in many areas of ones life (including literature, law and even popular culture); I do not agree that it should be taught at this level or that it should be required.

I do not believe teachers can teach the Bible without bias; after all they have not been able to teach politics without bias. Religion is something very close to most people. If you are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Wiccan or even Atheist, your religion (or lack thereof) helps to define who you are. It is a part of you. If you sit down in a class to teach the Bible as literature, and you happen to be Wiccan, how can this not have an affect on your class? If you happen to be Christian, what happens when a non-Christian student challenges YOUR Bible? We already have color lines and socio-economic lines drawn in the class room (black kids hang out with black kids; rich kids with rich kids), why are we looking for something else to divide us?

Then you have to ask, whose Bible are they going to teach? Jews don’t consider the New Testament part of the Bible (I know because I am one) and there are many translations of the Bible and many are inaccurate. In fact, you may argue that because Hebrew can not be easily translated, word for word, to English, any Bible they choose other than one written in Hebrew would be inaccurate. Also, what happens to the kids who don’t hold any stock in the Jewish or Christian Bible at all? Because of the emotion involved this is much more consequential than when someone just doesn’t like “Of Mice and Men” or “Romeo and Juliet.”

Rather than teaching the Bible itself, it may be best for the school to pull out examples from the Bible. For example, when talking about our legal system it is certainly appropriate to point out the laws that connect to biblical laws (our founding fathers were men of faith after all). When reading a piece of literature which references the Bible, I see nothing wrong with referring to that part of the Bible for an in depth analysis; however, making the Bible required reading is just too dangerous.

11 February 2010

Messianic Judaism?

There is a new (to me) phenomenon that I find very disturbing and feel a need to talk about it a little bit. It is this growing movement in Christianity called Messianic Judaism or Jews for Jesus. As a Jew, I find the whole business to be very unsettling. Jews don’t believe Jesus was the messiah and that is all there is to it. If you believe he was, than you are not Jewish. I’m not sure if the movement is filled with Jews who were scammed by Christian missionaries, Christians fooling themselves or Jews hedging their bets. All I know is that I am getting very tired of doing searches for Judaism and Jewish resources just to be led to a Christian website.

Don’t read me wrong, I have nothing against Christians nor do I have anything against Jews who convert to Christianity or any other religion for that matter. I do have a problem with scam artists and that is exactly how I view Messianic Jews.

Why don’t Jews believe in Jesus as the Messiah? If you do a search you are sure to find many websites with this information. I won’t go into too much detail here but I’ll give you a quick list that I got from Aish and if you want to learn more please go to http://www.aish.com/jw/s/48892792.html where it is explained in more detail. You may also want to look and ask many questions at www.askmoses.com.

1) Jesus did not fulfill the messianic prophecies.

2) Jesus did not embody the personal qualifications of the Messiah.

3) Biblical verses "referring" to Jesus are mistranslations.

4) Jewish belief is based on national revelation.

I am getting very tired of searching for Jewish websites, homeschooling resources and books just to find that they are these types of groups. I’ve been to many sites claiming to be Jewish and selling Jewish materials only to find that are actually Christian. These sites and people are acting fraudulently and should be taken to task, at least.

I know my children will not be fooled by these people as we discus these groups but I worry some may. This is why it is so important to arm our children with knowledge about what Judaism is and is not. It is also important for Christians to understand that just because these groups are in existence does not mean they are in any way main stream or legitimate. I know many of my Christian friends think these “Jews” are enlightened or righteous but it is just the opposite.