Finishing up the lapbook… (I just need to attach this to the cover and it’s DONE!)
Delicious yom tov smells…
Must run – see you in 5772!!!
She could DO the math, but we were both frustrated by her number reversals (to the point where they were unreadable), both mirror images of the numbers and switching the place values (so 21 might be 12, with the numbers backwards). We actually took a break from formal “handwriting” math so her fine-motor skills could catch up a bit. And it was fine… we played with rods and did other mathy stuff until she was ready to keep going in the Miquon books (and soon, into the JUMP books).
I found out today (procrastinating – or rather, taking a break from endless Rosh Hashanah cooking!!!) about a program called The Verbal Math Lesson, available in physical or eBook form, which offers parent-led, somewhat scripted lessons to supplement a regular math program – or, perhaps, to fill in at times like the one we went through last year, when handwriting is an obstacle to math enjoyment.
In fact, one of the things I mentioned last night when I wrote about Life of Fred: Apples is that although the “Your Turn to Play” problems at the end of each chapter are meant to be written down, many are fine to do out loud, and that’s completely the point of the Verbal Math Lesson books.
As the book says (read a sample from Book 1 here), there is no writing needed OR ALLOWED in these lessons. So the book should probably be called “The ORAL Math Lesson,” since “verbal” includes both written and spoken language. But that’s a minor nitpick (well, there IS no minor grammar nitpick as far as I’m concerned, but that’s only because I lack all sense of perspective).
(and actually, funnily, the company DOES provide a few free worksheets – as they say, “if you must”!)
The lessons in the book ARE word-based (definitely verbal), but they’re based on telling your child the problems and hearing his or her responses. From the sample, it looks like all the solutions are provided in line with the questions (because you are the one looking at the book, NOT your child). The lessons remind me a bit of First Language Lessons, only for math; they’re also reminiscent of old texts like Ray’s Arithmetic – except these problems are not supposed to be written down.
I have only seen a sample of this program, but I love the idea of putting the pencil down and, like the kid on the cover of the book, just THINKING about math. I’ve been forcing myself to do this with recipe calculations for about a year now, multiplying and dividing 3-digit weights of dough, mostly by twos, threes and fours, and I think it’s really helping, and would REALLY help kids who are just coming at math for the first time.
So I definitely think this program worth checking out as a supplement to what we’re already doing. One parent mentioned that it’s a useful book to bring along so you can fit in a quick “math time” with your child wherever you happen to be. And the reason I mention all of this here is that the Verbal Math Lesson information page promises that if you blog about the book, they’ll give you a free one of your choice (eBook only!).
SO… I’ve held up my end of the deal; if they send me the free eBook, then sometime after the chagim I will hopefully have a chance to let you know how the program works in real life!
I have read Life of Fred Algebra, so I thought I was prepared for a certain degree of surrealism and silliness, but an initial glance through this book far surpassed my expectations. Silliness is not the word for this book’s weird mix of math, humour and awful art, and not entirely in a good way. I honestly wasn’t sure the kids would sit through it.
But they love it. Strange.
They are utterly entranced by this tale of a 5-year-old pointy-nosed midget professor who sleeps under his desk in the math department at the prestigious KITTENS University and his blob-shaped doll, Kingie.
The book is a quick read, so I’m trying to pace ourselves, doing one chapter every couple of days, despite the kids begging for it at story time. We have made it through the first five chapters so far (out of 18). The story actually reminds me a lot of one of Ted’s rambling and nonsensical bedtime tales, which is probably why they like it so much.
The book touches very lightly upon a wide range of Grade One math concepts. There are three more books that follow Apples: Butterflies, Cats, and Dogs. I think they’re loosely supposed to correspond to grade levels, but I think parents generally start at the beginning and just read through the series. I did read on a message board that there is a disturbing theme in the “Dogs” book: euthanasia. Apparently, a whole bunch of dogs are put to sleep for no good reason, bringing up a whole slew of topics you may not wish to discuss with your child. I have emailed the author / publisher for clarification so I can decide before buying if this is appropriate for my kids.
I have also seen that there are “Christian” references in the book – but I believe this was clarified to mean references to God, the Bible, etc. Nothing (that I know of) which is specifically Christian, though the author himself is a religious Christian.
One reason I was excited to buy the Elementary series of Life of Fred books when they first came out is that I bought the Beginning Algebra book a couple of years ago when one of the big kids was struggling with algebra. I thought the book was great, and I think the child went through the book, but the point is not just to READ it but to stop at the end of every chapter and participate through the “Your Turn to Play” section at the end. The student is supposed to answer the questions before turning the page… which in that case, didn’t work. So it was a good read, but not the best math help, as such.
The Elementary books ALSO contain a “Your Turn to Play” section, but the nice thing about reading the book to the littles is that I can stop and MAKE them answer before going on. The instructions usually say to write down the answers (on a separate page!), but we have been doing them out loud so far. Here’s one from later on in the book that needs writing down.
I have peeked ahead and discovered that, although there’s little depth to the plot, it continues merrily in much the same vein, ramping up the difficulty SUBTLY with each chapter. (the questions shown above are about the most “mathy” this book gets!)
Here is what the book claims to teach:
Does it really do all that??? I don’t expect that it will revolutionize our lives, and I’m certainly not dropping our conventional math text and workbook time for a nice “sit-down-and-snuggle” with Fred. On the other hand, this makes a great supplement, and for those taking a living-math approach (unschooly, with little or no formal written work), this would probably be a great way to ADD formality to the curriculum, making sure everything “got covered” without having to actually do math in a big scary way.
It might also be a good resource for math-phobic parents (and teachers! elementary teachers often fear math!) to help themselves feel comfortable with basic math properties, like the commutative property of addition that means 5 pencils plus 2 pencils equals 7 pencils, a fact proven over and over and OVER in the Apples book. As it promises above, I can vouch that this book does indeed teach “numbers that add to 7.” How that will help us when we meet OTHER numbers, I’m not quite sure.
What I do know is that this kind of repetition may seem tedious to adults, but for grammar-stage learners (according to proponents of the Trivium model of classical education and in MY humble experience), it just helps them feel Powerful and Knowing. Even the lousy quality of the art seems to make Naomi feel good – even a 6-year-old can draw better than Fred (though not better than his doll, Kingie!).
You can find more information about the Life of Fred books, along with full-chapter samples of each book, at this site.
Mostly, I think single-use kitchen toys are silly. But last year, I bought a muffin-top pan and quickly discovered THE very, very best use for it… honey cake tops!!!
I already blogged about this last year at my Bread Blog… but don’t just take my word for it; go out and bake some honey cake tops. The only reason most of us eat honey cake anyway is the tops!
Uh-oh… Do I use the word “easy” to describe all my crafts???
This one is based loosely on a “sheep” project in the Literature Pockets: Nursery Rhymes book, but I’m hoping my kids won’t notice its highly derivative nature.
I guess it doesn’t meet the Charlotte Mason criterion of being a “useful object” (so kids aren’t just doing “twaddle crafts” to kill time, but end up with something useful for the home and acquiring real-world skills). However, it DOES fulfill most of my criteria for a “green” craft, anyway: when it’s finished adorning your home, you can toss the whole thing in the backyard composter!
I haven’t got time for a step-by-step, but really, all you need are, for each ram:
I made the hair by wrapping lengths of yarn LOOSELY around a piece of cardboard about the width I wanted the hairs to be. Then, I drizzled glue onto the body and spread the wrapped hair onto the body. Then, I gave it a “haircut” to remove the loops!
This is absolutely the NICEST yarn; I think it’s alpaca, but I’m not sure. It’s soft and fuzzy and nice to run your fingers through. I just happened to have it here… well, in Elisheva’s room. Her grandmother gave it to her to knit with. This project won’t use it all up – I hope! (I did ask her permission…)
I invited a few other homeschooled kids to come over for a Rosh Hashanah program tomorrow. We’ll daven, bake honey cakes, eat honey cake, apples and honey, sing and read a couple of stories, and do this craft.
Here’s my box of supplies for this craft, all tidy & ready to go!
On my downloads pages, most of the downloads are now from 4shared, a free file-hosting site. I switched last year from Google Docs because there were too many people having too many problems with Google Docs. However, 4shared is not without its foibles.
Here’s a quick step-by-step to using the site.
When you click on the link from my printables page, you will reach a page at 4shared that looks like this:
Click the big, blue DOWNLOAD NOW button:
This takes you to the obnoxious “wait time” page to remind you that you could bypass the wait and download immediately if you’re the instant-gratification and spending-money type. Do not click anywhere… just wait!
You should see it counting down from 20 seconds. If it’s not ticking down, something’s wrong. Switch windows and go play Spider Solitaire, like I do! After 20 seconds, here’s what you should see:
Click the DOWNLOAD FILE NOW link:
Depending on your computer, you’ll see something like this box popping up, asking you where you’d like to save the downloaded file. Pick a place, any place – just remember where you put it!
After that, you should be able to double-click to see the document in the image-viewing program of your choice…
Hope this helps! Here are handy links to ALL my printables:
I have to wake up, have a shower, find clean clothes and a matching head-thing, put on shoes, drive across town, park and go up an elevator to an office.
I know all this because I did it on Thursday already. ALL DAY.
Why am I doing this at such a crazy time of year??? In the middle of homeschooling three children? In the middle of Yom Tov preparations? In the middle of the first week I have felt at ALL recuperated from breaking my ankle?
There’s a saying, “if you want to get something done, ask a busy woman.”
So they asked – at this busy time of year, which is busy for them, too – if I could come in and help fill in here and there. As a very special bonus, they can’t pay much. So of course: stupidly, crazily, I said yes.
The nice thing is that all of it – the crazy time of year, the not-paying-much – means (I think) that the power is still mine in this equation. Of course I can’t work long hours, regular hours, or even be expected to do an extraordinarily good job (though I will!). What do they expect, for what they’re prepared to pay?
The other nice thing is (shhhh) I really, REALLY like working in offices. I like being surrounded by productive buzz and not screamy shmeary toddlers. This is a trap, of course. This is where I decide it is so tantalizingly lovely to be in a clean place with polite people that I ditch the house and the kids and run away back to the workplace.
But don’t worry, loyal readers. I’m not falling for it. I’ll be back at home before you know it!
It seems that the best I can say about Limudei Kodesh (Jewish studies) resources is that they’re not completely appalling. With that in mind, I browsed the shelves in a couple of local bookstores today and came away with the following:
The first two are written by Seymour Rossel, the author who wrote Introduction to Jewish History, the book I’ve tentatively bought for Jewish history. Well, I really did buy it, but I’m tentative because it’s not an extraordinary book. It’s only, as I said, not completely appalling.
The pictures are very dated, but on the other hand, they’re not badly done, and the text is written – not by a committee – but by a single author who seems passionate about his subject.
I’m hoping, really hoping, that counts for more than up-to-dateness (up-to-date-itude?), especially in books about the Tanach. I bought the Torah and Tanach books used online because they were much cheaper than getting them locally. Now I’m worried, though, because there are quite a few write-in games and exercises (crossword puzzles and things) and I fear the books will be all scribbly when they arrive. :-(
I’m kind of excited about the Llama one, though! The stories in our Migdalor book, Kriyah v’Od, Part 2, are getting kind of tedious. There are only so many knapsacks (tikim) and new children (yeladim) one can have in a classroom (kitah) before one begins to crave a bit more by way of vocabulary and storytelling.
Yesh Lanu Lama, which I bought in the actual store today, because it wasn’t very much money, features black-and-white illustrations which are – what can I say? – not completely appalling.
The stories use a repetitive vocabulary in the same way that English controlled-phonics primers start with a very basic vocabulary, but build from one story to the next. New words are given on the page in Hebrew only, which I like, called out in a neat little box in the corner. (though the vocabulary includes such helpful Hebrew phrases as “ooh-la-la” – ugh)
The books themselves – there’s a second reader in the series - follow the adventures of Shiri, a little classroom llama who makes life just slightly more exciting than in the knapsack-and-pencil world of Kriyah v’Od. Here are sample pages from book one (left) and book two (right). You can see that the stories do become more complex, and the font size smaller, as kids’ reading progresses.
What these books are completely – and refreshingly! – missing are the cloying questions at the end of every story in the Kriyah v’Od and other Hebrew reading books, designed to test comprehension but which really just involve looking back and regurgitating lines or words from the story. I’m not loving that part of it, and it’s nice to see a book that is confident enough that kids can read and understand without being grilled afterwards.
The only thing this eliminates is those cloying written quizzes and exercises, but because she’ll still be doing weekly parsha & other copywork, along with practice exercises in K’tav b’Kalut, I think she won’t suffer overly much from a lack of answering questions about the stories she’s reading.
Up to 67% Off Reptile Zoo Visit for Up to 10 ... Four Options Available: http://www.groupon.com/deals/toronto-reptilia?utm_campaign=UserReferral&utm_medium=email&utm_source=uu35783651
(with thanks to Phyllis Sommer’s Ima on and off the Bima for the “Blog Elul” button and meme, which I have not yet participated because I thought I had nothing to say)
My friend Sara just wrote an interesting post about strollers, and running after her toddler on Shabbos.
Her post reminded me – tangentially – of the olden days, before Toronto got its current eiruv. I started to write it in her comments, but realized (for once) that my thoughts were totally irrelevant. “Get your own blog,” I told myself. But then I realized, “Wait a minute. I HAVE my own blog. And this is what it’s for – my random dull reminiscences of bygone eras.” “Okay, then,” I told myself. “Why not write it there?”
So I am.
When YM was a baby, there was no eiruv in Toronto, so young mamas just didn't go out on Shabbos. By the time we moved to Calgary, also with no eiruv, he was walking, so on Yom Kippur I decided to walk to shul. The shul was RIGHT across the street. Literally, across a stoplight and then walk to the end of the plaza - maybe 6 store-widths?
Here’s the plaza:
Here are the townhouses where we lived – literally across the street:
Did I mention that I was pregnant at the time? Not hugely so, but enough that my back and hips hurt ALL the time. I hadn’t been able to pick YM up in a while, but luckily, he walked well at 10 months. Smart boy!
This being Yom Kippur, it was a bit before his first birthday. (which always comes – don’t take his word for this, because he’s planning on celebrating it on September 30th this year - right after Sukkos)
Naturally, he crawled down the stairs of our townhouse, and with the promise of seeing Tatty, toddled eagerly all the way to shul. We stayed for an hour or two until I thought he was starting to get tuckered out… and then I tried to head for home.
See that sidewalk in front of the plaza??? It turns out – sort of like Zeno’s paradox – that with a crying baby, who does not want to walk, and no eiruv to carry him in, it is infinitely long. I coaxed and sang and held his hand and cajoled and dragged him along, but by the time we were halfway home (the bus stop in the above picture), he wasn’t going anywhere and we were both in tears. That was maybe 45 minutes, but it felt like MUCH longer.
A woman at the bus stop asked if I needed help… but I said no. I wasn’t going to ask her to carry him the rest of the way home, nor could I figure out how to explain to her why I couldn’t.
You can actually walk “daled amos” (4 cubits, about 6 feet) while carrying, even with no eiruv. By this time, though, my back was in pain, and I didn’t think I could even carry him “bais amos” (2 cubits) without breaking it entirely.
Still, that’s what I did. I picked him up, carried him what I figured was about 4 feet (to be on the safe side), put him down, picked him up, carried him, put him down… all the way home. Of course, that didn’t help us cross the street in time for the notoriously antisemitic traffic light which didn’t even change if you didn’t press the button.
Mercifully, I forget how we got across the street… what matters is we DID get across, DID get home, or at least in the front door. I sat on the bottom step and cried for a while as YM, no longer tired and cranky at all, happily crawled up the stairs again and went to play.
(the journey that took us an hour)
Since this is a thoughtful blog, or I like to think so, I wonder what the greater POINT is of this episode. What is its meaning in terms of my life as a Jew?
Is it, as some might say, just an example of how ridiculous and legalistic this religion can be, to not allow a weary mother and her baby a quick and easy way to get to shul on the holiest day of the year? Surely that cannot be the intention of the law! I can imagine someone shrugging in disgust and saying something like, “that’s exactly why I left frumkeit.”
But I didn’t leave frumkeit, so clearly, it isn’t that for me. I now see it as one of those amazing “teachable moments” that are so painful in the moment: my job, as a parent, was to NOT expect my child to do something that was clearly beyond him. I figured he had the motor skills, but in my desire to go to shul, to not be stuck alone at home, I didn’t really look clearly at his other skills to make good and sure he was ready for what I was about to ask of him. It’s a worthwhile lesson.
Many times, since then, I have been disappointed or angry at how my kids have behaved, and only later – when the red smokescreen of fury passed – realized it’s because I was asking more of them than they could do just yet. And usually, that happened when I wanted something so much I stopped taking their abilities into consideration. More than WANTING, the worst came when I told myself I SHOULD get to do something – I had a right. It blinded me.
Like going to shul on Yom Kippur – of course I should go; I had a right to go. Or one disastrous Purim when I brought two little kids to a megillah reading in a shul that was very, very insistent on absolute silence.
I was a single parent; my life was terrible, I couldn’t afford a babysitter – and I had a right (a religious obligation!!!) to hear the megillah. It’s not like I was sneaking out to a bar. But the kids misbehaved anyway; I had WAAAAay overestimated both their ability to sit without clacking the greggars and the shul’s ability to tolerate my children, and we got shushed out of the place.
My friend’s post about strollers isn’t just about strollers – it’s about being patient, about living life at your kids’ speed. About letting kids walk even when they meander, even when it’s inconvenient. And I guess, so is mine. Looking good and long and honestly at your kids and knowing their “speed” – their strengths and their true limitations.
Through my kids, I’ve also learned about my own limitations… and about finding solutions that really work. Like that Purim. We left the shul in disgrace and headed to a friend’s house who lived down the street. We were locked out, so the kids threw snowballs for a while until my friends came home from shul. Then, my friend babysat while I went to the second megillah reading, sans kids.
This is a lesson about kids, but also, perhaps, a lesson in emunah: If it’s a NEED, Hashem will take care of it – somehow. If it’s not happening, if there’s honestly no way to make it happen, then maybe it’s not really a need; maybe it’s not a right… maybe it’s just a WANT.
Have I learned this lesson??? Not particularly well. I know it, but something of this magnitude takes years, a lifetime, to sink in. Like the iron-on T-shirts you used to buy at the mall kiosks said: “Be patient, God isn’t finished with me yet.”
It’s a good time of year to work on this, with His help. May we all emerge, famished slightly more “finished,” in two weeks’ time.
For more BlogElul thoughts from others, click here.
This is our last “normal” week before the roller-coaster of the chagim (MONTH of Jewish holidays coming up). I’ve found it’s best to cram a lot in the first couple of days of the week, because after that, things tend to fall apart… like this week, when I worked a full day yesterday outside of the home. Blah.
But here’s what we were up to on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and today…
Had an “arty” day with Draw Write Now and Mozart!
Did some kinda teary measurement math with JUMP and Cuisenaire Rods. Not that we don’t love math! And hopefully, we will love it even more now that we have started reading “Life of Fred: Apples,” which just arrived this week. It’s a very, VERY, very strange book. Naomi isn’t sure she likes it yet, and at first, based only on the cover, she asked me NOT to read it. But I think she’ll get into it once we’re on our way.
Carrying on through First-Time Analogies (we do it during math time). We’ve moved on to cut/paste analogies; I think she enjoyed them, but the pages in the book are laid out all wrong and I had to photocopy the pages so she could cut them out. Dumb!!! Remind me to kvetch to the publisher about that if I get time in the next couple of weeks…. ha ha ha. Time???
Worked on the Rosh Hashanah lapbook… but I haven’t taken any more pictures yet.
In science (yes, we’re finally doing science!), we classified animals with these printables to go along with our fun new Apologia science book:
Oh, and we built these gliders to illustrate how perfectly Hashem designed His flying creatures:
They ought to make these narration pages seriously bigger, though. This was just PART of the half-chapter that is supposed to be recorded on t his page. Naomi likes to talk and talk and talk. She was disappointed that there wasn’t more drawing space on the page.
We’re up to Ancient India in Story of the World history. The SOTW mapwork is very, VERY basic compared to what we’ve been doing in geography, so I decided to have Naomi add a couple of little extra touches. I had her draw her own compass rose in the bottom (“Never Eat Shredded Wheat”) (she chose to add the intermediate points, too), and also had her draw in a dashed line showing how a person from Mohenjo-Daro (in India), could possibly sail over the Arabian sea and up the Euphrates to trade with people living in Ur.
Weekly Parsha & Rosh Hashanah copywork (homemade):
I love the fact that our Bright Beginnings Chumash workbook comes with flashcards! They are beautiful, cardboard and shiny, full-colour, and Naomi and I both love them. I have pulled out three pages so I think we have 24 of them now. She knows most – I’d say about 20 of them so far. We’re up to Passuk (verse) 4 of Lech Lech, which is slow going since we’ve been at it since July (one verse a month???). But I think the pace will pick up now that she’s getting more comfortable with the concepts.
Of course, she also wrote some stuff just for fun…
And Gavriel Zev’s shaggy, shaggy hair is finally GONE! Just in time for Shabbos…
(and violating my longstanding rule that I never cut hair on Fridays!)
That’s not nearly everything; we got a lot done this week. But now I’m off to wrap up our week with Parsha and narration!
What did all of you get up to this cool and rainy first fall week???