Friday, September 30, 2011

Noah and the flood

Above is J's drawing of Noah's ark, below is Zoo Boy's (his is an aerial view). J was singing songs we'd learned about Noah and the ark while they were drawing.

Above is J's story summary, below is Zoo Boy's. Again, the boys pretty much wrote the summary entirely on their own, they are getting a really good grasp of pulling out the important parts of the story (though entirely on their own they would still write a summary so long neither of them would want to copy it into their good books).

Torah joke

As told by J:

Eve: Adam, do you think we should worry about Cain picking on his little brother?

Adam: Nah, he'll be fine. Here, have another apple.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cain and Abel

I had worried about telling this story -- admittedly, it's a little intense, and I wondered how hearing it would affect my boys. How does introducing the concept of one brother killing another sound to two brothers who are as close as mine? J (whose story drawing is above, with Abel making a heart-felt offering to Yahweh, while an angry, jealous Cain glares at him from behind) merely gasped and looked up from the deck of cards he was shuffling when I got to that critical part of the story. Zoo Boy (story drawing below, of Cain drawing a blade on Abel in the field where they fought) said "uhoh" when the story started building, then followed that up with a quiet "I knew this was going to be bad" when Cain finally killed Abel. All in all, I'd say they handled it remarkably well.

More and more I am letting the kids chose the wording for our summaries. Today's was written almost entirely by them. (J's full summary above.) Since it was a little on the long side, I let Zoo Boy write a shorter version of it:

Rosh Hashanah

I was walking a thin line as we celebrated some of the Rosh Hashanah traditions, in keeping with the cultural spirit of our Torah unit. Zoo Boy really wanted to do a REAL Rosh Hashanah celebration, with the Hebrew readings and a visit to a Temple and the whole nine yards. (He's just SUCH the right age for this sort of embracing of the cultures.) J, on the other hand, was highly opposed to celebrating it at all -- he felt that it was disrespectful for us to observe a religious holiday that was not our own. (And that's totally normal for his developmental place as well.) So I settled on sampling the foods and listening to some recorded prayers and readings in Hebrew, but did not go any deeper than that. Zoo Boy was disappointed we didn't "do more" to celebrate. J was OK with the compromise, and we discussed how there are some holidays that people celebrate because they believe in the religion behind them, and some that they celebrate because they are just part of their family traditions. (I used Yule and Christmas as examples of each for our family -- we know plenty of families who celebrate the Winter Solstice who are not Pagan, and we certainly enjoy the Christmas traditions ourselves without believing in the nativity story as a truth.)

It was a nice little celebration, not as deep as I would have liked to delve into it, but the best I could do and still respect what my kids needed from it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


There just so much stuff that I want to blog about and can't seem to find the time. Like, for instance:

Our Science Fridays co-op, where we explored chemicals in everyday household items.

Or the kite making session during the boys' Flight class.

Or the making and using of horizontal ground looms in our Ancient Israeli crafts class.

Or using M&Ms and bead stringing to explore fractions in that class.

Or the fact that J got a really exiting role in his upcoming Nutcracker production. (He'll be dancing the role of Fritz, Clara's brother, as well as participating in the Russian dance.)

Or the fabulous science classes (Ecosystems, Rocket Design, and brainstorming how people could live on Mars) at The Children Museum's Homeschool Day yesterday.

Or the fact that Zoo Boy has received an invitation to participate in an upcoming test for his next Karate belt.

And, on a very, very sad note, the passing of April, our beloved Akbash livestock guardian dog, who has protected us and our critters for the past year. She was quite old for such a large dog (9 1/2 years), and didn't give us any sign that she was at the end. We just found her curled up and sleeping forever one evening, after having been her usual bouncy, happy self right up until then. May we all have such a peaceful passing when our times come.

Friday, September 23, 2011


Below is an Acrostic poem that J wrote as part of his practice work today. This is the first time I've assigned something like this, and I was totally blown away by the creativity of his poem! So I felt the need to share:


A lion was walking
Not knowing he was stalking
Impala -- the master of tricks.
Mighty Impala kicked his legs
And hit Lion in the head,
Lion said "Impala sure got his kicks!"

the fall

Above is J's drawing of Yahweh telling Adam and Eve not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge. Below is Zoo Boy's drawing of Yahweh punishing the serpent and Adam and Eve after they ate from the Tree of Knowledge. I find it interesting that both boys drew Yahweh as a sort of non-distinct individual (in J's you can only see a light and a pair of hands, in Zoo Boy's he's just a shapeless flesh-colored blob).

Above is J's story summary, below is Zoo Boy's.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

the creation and the garden

J's drawing, above, is of Adam and Eve naming animals in the Garden of Eden. Zoo Boy's drawing, below, is of Adam and Eve together by the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge.

J's story summary above, Zoo Boy's below. As you can see, I am requiring a more complete summary from Zoo Boy this year, and amazingly, he is not resisting the extra handwriting. If you ever want to see a larger picture of the handwriting samples (so you can actually read them), just click on the photo and it will take you to a larger version.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

opening: Naomi and Asher

Yesterday we read the story that opens our epic. It's a story set in modern times that shows a family preparing for Rosh Hashanah, and the grandson's excitement at hearing the stories of his father's father's father's fathers. Above, J draws the family, all dressed up, joining other people on their way to Temple. Below, Zoo Boy shows a scene from the family's kitchen, as Mother and Naomi prepare the Rosh Hashanah foods and Asher works on his homework.

Above, J's story summary, below is Zoo Boy's.

The boys are both exited to hear grandfather's stories in the coming weeks.

J asked today if this work means we're going to celebrate Rosh Hashanah. When I said that yes, we will observe some of the traditions next Friday on Rosh Hashanah, he was stunned. "But why?" he wondered, "We're not Jewish!" I nodded and told him that he's right, and we're not going to celebrate in quite the same way -- we won't go to Temple and we won't say all of the sacred prayers, because those are not our family's beliefs. But we're going to listen to a few of the readings and eat some of the same foods that Jewish families all over the world will be doing, and have been doing for many, many years. He went off to think about that a bit. Zoo Boy, on the other hand, thinks the entire things sounds really cool --I think he'd love to go to Temple and really participate in a real Rosh Hashanah ceremony.

I will need to keep a feel of the "temperature" of this type of thing with my kids, especially as Hanuka coincides this year with Yule (an important part of our family's spiritual celebrations), the first night of Hanuka falling on the Long Night. I will need to decide if it will mean more to the boys to incorporate the Hanuka story and the lighting of the menorah into our own family celebrations, or to keep it a separate observation a week prior to the actual dates. I am keeping flexibility in our schedule so that I can do what feels right when we get to that point.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

monday homeschool classes

Our fun Monday Homeschool Classes co-op started up again yesterday, and the kids were all thrilled to be "back to school" with their friends.

First class of the day for my kids was about Flight. After discussing the historical beginnings of flight, they made their own hot air balloons from lightweight plastic trash bags, then heated the air inside with a hair dryer, then let them go! It was amazing how well these things floated!

Next they created a more complicated flying machine out of a latex balloon. They used a washer on a piece of string as a weight (to keep the balloon upright) and the hair dryer to provide upward lift. After experimenting with their wobbly creations, the teacher showed them how (and where) to add cellophane tape fins to make the balloon spin, which added stability. The kids then practiced flying their creations and landing them in plastic cups.

Really, really cool class.

Next was one of my offerings, a class called "Ancient Israeli Crafts" which I designed to support our Torah study unit this fall. We started the class by looking at some maps and satellite photos of Israel, so the kids had an idea where in the world it is, and were able to determine (from the satellite photos) that there is a predominate desert climate there. We also looked at photos (from library books) of what the desert looks like, and identified the sorts of plants and animals that could survive in that ecosystem. Then we brainstormed about how people could survive there without any of the technology we have today. We soon discovered that the Ancient Israelis depended quite a bit on their goats, and we created a few products like they may have used for survival -- a folded leather pouch for carrying food, and yarn from goat fiber (mohair) which they made tents and clothing from for shelter. Next week we'll build ground looms and weave tent strips on them.

Lunch was held at a nearby park, complete with glorious weather, a nice play scape, tennis courts and ball fields, and a small river to wade in. And, most important to me, picnic tables in the shade of a big tree.

Last class of the day was my Fun With Fractions class. This is a really "lite" introduction to fractions, comparing what fraction of whole things the kids themselves are a part of. The worksheets to the left of the photo provided some questions that we answered together in class, like "What fraction of the class are you?" and "What fraction of your family are you?" This week we just dealt with fractions whose numerators are 1, we'll deal with multiple numerators next week. The craft project, to the right in the photo (J's above, Zoo Boy's below), was a huge hit with the kids, who all loved cutting their half of a half in half to create an eighth. Also a huge hit was dividing our round coffee cake and our square coffee cake into fractions to feed the class.

If only I could remember to take photos while the class is running! But I get too caught up in teaching and can't seem to remember to click the camera, despite the fact that it's sitting next to me on the table.

Monday, September 19, 2011

genesis paintings, day 5

Sorry for the sudden glut of posts! A combination of a busy weekend and the fact that we actually schooled and created stuff I wanted to post right through it left me without time to get on the computer and take care of it.

This was our final day of painting from the Genesis story. Yesterday we finished up the story with the verses about the creation of the beasts and man. This is my painting. I was thrilled that my elephant and giraffe actually turned out to be recognizable! It made up for the fact that my man looks like a zombie alien....

J's painting. His man, of course, actually looks like a man. Glad one of us is mastering this painting thing....

Zoo Boy's painting.

Now it's on to reading the epic one story at a time, and working with recall and story drawing and summaries like we have for the past couple of years. I'll also be adding in form drawing (wish me luck, I'm not overly confident about it....) and practice work to round out our "full" school days. The painting has been fun, but I'm ready to get back into my more comfortable elements, and SO ready NOT to have to set up to paint every day!

genesis paintings, day 4

Our day 4 paintings were inspired by the passage where Yahweh created the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky. We were all a little more careful about the amount of water and paint on our pages, and hence experienced a bit more success with these paintings. This first one is mine.

J's painting. I like how his water looks more like water than my flat blue does. His fish are also less blurry than mine. This was our first time using smaller brushes than the 1" flat brushes we we've been used to, for painting in the fish and the birds. I had a bit of a problem controlling the amount of paint on mine. (The kids seems to have less trouble with that.)

Zoo Boy's painting. Halfway through this, he exclaimed "This is my best painting ever!" I was so happy to hear him enjoying himself with painting again, after the problems from yesterday's painting.

sizing up and sizing down, part 2

Above are some of the "sizing up and down" strips that the kids in our Science Fridays co-op created. Zoo Boy's is on the bottom, J's is above. All the kids had a total blast with this homework assignment, and all had a different approach.

The kids share the details about their strips with one another. Zoo Boy had made sure to include all the various size categories on his, along with the name of the size category, using the game cards from last week's game as a reference. J just drew from his own ideas of what is larger and smaller than himself and put them in the right locations on the strip. Some of the other kids also drew, some cut pictures from magazines, and one took photos of the objects she wanted to include.

Here's a couple more of the strips. One of the "little" kids in our group just ordered things from biggest to smallest -- she said that comparing to their own size was "too grown up" for them. I loved that perspective!! Our group is geared at our kids that are ages 8 and up, but thanks to flexible thinking on the kids' parts, the 5 and 6 year old are finding ways to participate right along with them.

After sharing their strips, the kids listened to a story called "What is Smaller Than a Pygmy Shrew?" which is all about sizing down, down, down to the microscopic realms.

Then they viewed a computer simulation of sizing both up and down, from the universe down to the pieces of a quark. They participated in a discussion about what is the biggest thing and what is the smallest thing, and whether or not that can actually be defined. The kids were all really into it.

Then with our remaining time, they all sat down and made covers for their binders.

Zoo Boy was disappointed that there wasn't any homework this week, but I assured him that we'd read a science story before heading to co-op next Friday.

genesis paintings, day 3

We all struggled with the day 3 paintings, during which we read the verses of genesis that cover the creation of plant life, and then the placement of the moon and the sun in the sky. For the first time, we were purposely trying to bring some form to our paintings, and it was a challenge -- usually kids have a year of bringing in a bit of form before attempting this series of paintings, which we haven't done since we'd been a bit behind with painting, so I had anticipated that it would be a bit challenging for us all. (Me too, I've had no prior painting experience at all before starting working with the kids with it a few years ago.) This first painting is mine.

Here's J's painting -- he alone didn't complain about how his came out, he has an uncanny way of seeing the beauty in everything, even when it doesn't come out as planned. Or perhaps the key to his positive attitude is that he doesn't really have any set expectations when he sits down to create, so he's happy with whatever happens to come out on the page. Either way, I wish I could can that and share it with others!

Zoo Boy was quite upset with the way his painting turned out. I let him be sad about it for a bit, then asked him if he wanted to talk about it. He told me that he didn't know WHY he was so sad. I said that I could understand why, I was sad that my painting didn't turn out the way I wanted it to, either. Then we talked about what went wrong while we were painting -- too much water on the page, we didn't use strong enough colors and there was too much paint on our brushes which only added more water to the page and blurred our figures. I pointed out how the roots of his tree looked more like roots than mine or J's paintings, and how that wouldn't have happened if his page had been as dry as ours. In the end we decided that we would try again tomorrow with the next painting and see if we couldn't correct some of the things we didn't like with this painting.

Friday, September 16, 2011

genesis painting, day 2

Here's our day 2 paintings -- this first is mine. For these paintings we read the passage where Yahweh created a firmament between the blue to separate the sea and the sky.

J's painting

Zoo Boy's painting