Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Kids will be Alright...

I am a Jewish mother. I worry. A lot. 
I worry that I am not doing enough with my kids. 
I worry that I am doing too much with them. 

Today a friend of mine shared this with me on Facebook:

It hit home, hard.

When you homeschool, there are always so many well meaning friends and family who offer their advice and opinions.

"Kids NEED to be with lots of other kids, how else will they toughen up and learn about life?"
"Kids need to be stimulated, they can't just play all day. Look into tennis lessons, swim lessons, ballet lessons, piano lessons, science camp, reading camp blah blah blah..."
"It's not healthy for them or you to be together ALL day, everyday"

Honestly, it can get a little confusing.

When I look at my kids, I see they are happy. They are content. They have a really wonderful and safe little world right now. 

In their world, they know that every morning they get to pick their breakfast.
They get to pour their own milk into the cereal of their choice.

They then get to decide what they want to do with their morning.
There are always lots of options ready for them to choose from.
They can go to our art section and pull out some construction paper, glue and scissors and create a master piece.

They can jump into a bean bag with a bunch of books and read whatever they want for however long they want to.

 They can sit on the floor and create an entire village with blocks, Lego's, dolls and cars.

Kids need routine, don't get me wrong.

But part of their routine needs to include lots and lots of time for their minds to blossom.

Constantly giving kids things to do may validate YOU because you feel that they are getting X,Y and Z accomplished.

But giving them the ability and the confidence to make decisions based on things that THEY want to do do and what they enjoy is priceless.

In my experience, when a child is interested in something, feed it.
If they are not interested, either leave it alone or reintroduce it at another time.

Kids need love. Kids need discipline. Kids need to be treated with respect. Kids need options. Kids need parents who believe in them and give them and build up their confidence. Kids need direction. Kids need the opportunity to discover new things and explore their interests.

Kids do not need OUR agenda. 
They have their own. 
And if we tap into it, its quite remarkable what happens. 

And you will see that when it comes time to learn certain things like reading, writing, math, Chumash, Gemara, etc. their brains will be SO ready for it because you have given them all these years, this gift, this freedom to exercise their brains and to figure things out by themselves and to make their own decisions. 

I have seen it, and it's quite extraordinary.

Have a wonderful Shabbos,

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Montessori Inspired Activities for Shavuot

One of the things that I absolutely just love about the Montessori method is how the children are encouraged to use all five senses to explore their little world. Here are some Montessori inspired activities that we have done/are going to do in preparation for Shavout which do just that~

Remember, when your kids are little (under 6) it is not about feeding them content and information about the holiday (teaching your 4 year old to memorize the different names of Shavuot!) - its about letting them discover the holiday through their own five senses, looking at pictures, tasting the foods, preparing the foods, feeling things that connect to the holiday, smelling things that connect to the holidays and listening to things that connect to the holiday.

In Shir Hashirim, the Torah is compared to the sweetness of "milk and honey under your tongue".
Set out a tray with milk for the kids to pour into a cup to drink with a straw. Then have the kids pour some honey into a small bowl and taste it with a small spoon. 

 Here are some wonderful books to read for Shavuot:
A Dozen Daizies for Raizy - A little girl giving out her daisies that she bought for Shavuot
 When the World was Quiet - How the entire world was completely quiet when the Torah was given on Har Sinai
Shavuos with Binah, Benny and Chagai Hayonah - this is for older kids, filled with lots of information and stories about Shavuot
Dovid the Little Shepherd - Since David Hamelech's birthday is on Shavuot, it is an appropriate time to read the story of David as a young shepherd and how he took such good care of his sheep.

We learned that at Matan Torah you could HEAR the lightening and SEE the thunder. Take out books from the library and learn about thunder and lightening.

Flowers bloomed all over Har Sinai. Have the children arrange flowers in a vase. Fill it with water then cut the flowers off the stems to arrange in the vase. You can use these for Shavuot.

Go outside with a scissors and cut flowers from the garden to put in a vase.

Plant flower seeds. Get a small pot, have the children fill it with dirt from outside, plant the seeds and water it every day. The kids will be so excited as they watch their little seed turn into a little bud, then into beautiful flowers.

 Collect a bunch of flowers and smell each flower. Divide them into two groups- flowers that have a smell and flowers that don't.

Using Playdo (Click here for the recipe- I just added 1/2 cup cocoa to make it brown) let the kids shape it into a mountain and decorate it with pretty stones and flowers. Have little people that they can set up as the Jews around the mountain. This was a BIG hit, the kids LOVED doing this!

I drew a flower pot and my daughter decorated it with feathers, pom poms, glitter and colored it in.

 I got this idea from Pinterest (Click here to check it out) but my kids wanted to do it their own way. My daughter actually collected real flowers and glued them onto her plant. My son decided to collect real flowers and draw each flower onto paper, cut them out and glue them on. He is four and did this all by himself.

 Classic Montessori puzzle- learning the parts of the flower.

We eat dairy on Shavuot. Have the kids scoop their own ice cream into a bowl, then eat it!

Make your own ice cream:
Pour the following into a small ziploc bag-
1 cup of milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbs. honey
Place the bag into a large ziploc bag that is filled with ice and 6 Tbs. salt.
Seal it well and throw the bag around for about 10 minutes. It should turn into ice cream.

Shavuot means weeks. There are SEVEN weeks between Pesach and Shavuot. There are SEVEN days in a week. Using fruit counters count to seven.

 Practice writing the number seven using sandpaper numbers and write it in sand. 

 Talk about Shavuot. Using miniatures, have the kids hold them as you discuss the different things. Talk about how we learn Torah all night on Shavuot, and if they plan on staying up to learn too. Talk about dairy foods and what other foods are made of milk. Where does milk come from? Have some miniature cows available. Whatever little things you have, use when talking about them. 

Here are some great products I use for Shavuot~

So there you have it- I hope its helpful!
Wishing you all a wonderful week,
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