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Archive for the ‘Homeschooling’ Category

Bear Necessities

It seems that all the other blogging homeschooling mothers are posting their summer to-do lists. I’d feel intimidated by these displays of foresight and initiative but I can’t plan at all yet because I don’t even know which country I’m going to be in this summer. I can’t even predict the hemisphere we’ll be in, and it’s almost July. I’m hoping to be able to make it to the USA for Fred’s wedding (yes, the same Fred who spent our wedding night with us. I’m hoping not to return the favor), but I might end up dragging all the kids back to Seoul and experience monsoons. Or We’ll stay here in coastal Israel and see who buckles first and turns on the air conditioning (we haven’t turned it on yet. Our ability to withstand baking temperatures is a point of pride). So making a to-do list is out.

The kids, however, are good at making their own fun, and yesterday Aquila pulled out one of her birthday presents. I had given her a Fimo (hard-baking plastic clay) kit, and she made these:

It took her hours and no matter how difficult the steps were, she didn't quit.

Today I helped her paint on the eyes and mouths, and they were done. She’s really happy with her little bears, and has been hitting me up for more Fimo since these plastic ursines were baking.

She followed the directions for the brown one, and reinterpreted them for the pink one.

Aquila was generous enough to share some of the leftover clay with Lyra, who made a little girl:

I'm still getting used to her new do.

Honestly, I’m on the fence when it comes to Fimo. It’s a wonderful toy and tool and the girls really enjoy it, but do you know what happens to Fimo once it’s baked? Yeah, me either, until I step on it in the middle of the night. The one thing I’ve learned is that crafts projects pile up and pile up until you’re swimming in a sea of papers, pencils and glue. I’m not so sure I want to add Fimo to the mix. Back when the kids were little, I had the most perfect solution to the problem of sculptures and what to do with them: pretzels. We’d make the dough, the kids would shape it, we’d bake, admire, and the most important step: eat. The products were consumed within minutes and we’d have full tummies to show for all the effort. The kids had the joy of self-expression (“I made a heart!” “I made a flower!” “I made an AK-47!”) and we’d have lunch. It was all very efficient. I’m not sure I’m ready to move on to the more professional, and permanent, material.

You all know where this is going, though. The craft store, for more Fimo. I should probably put that at the top of the to-do list already.


Lunar Eclipse

"Did you see a white thing? Then it was the moon." -- Lyra

Zen and the Art of Toddler Maintenance

Sorry I haven’t posted in a bit. I actually did post yesterday, but I had to take the post down because it was in violation of Israeli military law. Who knew that dot matrix printed reserve duty reminder notices are illegal to post online, even with the identifying information fuzzed out? Oops. I still think it’s really funny that the most advanced army in the world uses dot matrix in 2011. I showed the notice to the kids as a quick history lesson.

Speaking of the kids, did you ever hear the expression that cleaning a house full of children is like shoveling snow while it’s still coming down? I have a toddler, so it’s not just a snowstorm, it’s a full-on blizzard, much like the one I was married in (really. Blizzard of ’96. We ended up getting stranded in New York and going back to Cloud Man’s parents’ house, where we were trapped for three days. Our friend Fred was also stuck and came with us, so he gets to tell people how he spent our wedding night with us. Aunt Marilyn taught a belly dancing class in the living room in the morning and Uncle Eric walked out in multiple feet of snow to get kosher Chinese food. Everything other store in three states was closed, but Wing Wan was open. Oh, and Cloud Man’s bedroom had a squeaky high-riser and shared a wall with his little sister’s room. Our marriage withstood its first hundred tests, which all took place within twenty-four hours of standing under the marriage canopy).

But back to the toddler: Sagitta is very, very busy. She plays, she helps put laundry in the machine, she does the dishes, she helps fold laundry, and she puts away groceries, and she does it like every other helpful toddler, with full gusto and total dedication, often undoing the work done for the sake of doing it again. Today, Sagitta was cleaning out the pantry all by herself, and she found an old bag of red raspberry leaf herb that I had leftover from when she was still in utero that I kept meaning to throw out and never quite got to. The bag had a ziplock closure. I didn’t pay it much mind, because she can’t quite open ziplocks, except if they are very weak.

The bag was open and contents were spilled all over the floor within minutes. I did what any reasonable homeschooling mom would do: I called the other kids in so they could play with it, too.

Lyra and Aquila were still in pajamas. It's one of the many benefits of our lifestyle.

There are things to get upset about, but this was not one of them. It’s best to just go with the flow.

There's plenty to go around.

Turns out, red raspberry leaf feels really good between the toes.

Seriously, you should try it.

Happy kids, 1, clean house, 0.


Now that things are settling down after Passover I can show you what that giant papier-mâché project became.

Not bad for some paper and glue, eh?

It’s our sefirat HaOmer calendar. The day after the Passover seder, we began to count the days and weeks to the next holiday, Shavuot, just like the Torah tells us to do in Leviticus. Each night, Moses goes up one step on Mount Sinai. Yes, it’s historically inaccurate, but it gets the idea across: the freedom of Passover culminates with the acceptance of the Torah on Shavuot. Just as we see ourselves as leaving Egypt, so too we stand at Sinai and accept the Torah.

Here is a close up of the Tablets of the Law:

Rectangular, just like the Talmud says. I mean the Jewish Talmud, not the Korean one.

And Moses, too:

We still need to number the stairs. I was hoping to get away without it, but now every time someone bumps against the table poor Moses falls off and it’s getting to be a pain to put him back on the correct step.

In Every Generation

I’ve fallen a little bit behind on the papier-mâché project (it’s not a lampshade or a serving dish, and yesterday we painted it green), but I wanted to take a moment to show you what we did last year.

Everyone knows that the Passover Hagaddah states that in every generation, each person is required to see himself as though he personally has gone out of Egypt.

In the generation of photoshop, it’s never been easier.


First, I searched through google images until I found a large image of Egypt. I chose this one, because it has a pyramid, as well as the modern city of Cairo in the background. There are tons of images out there, just make sure you start with a big file, because it’s always easier to scale images down than to scale them up, and I wanted this for printed out for the seder.

Then I went and found an image of sheep as well as Egyptian gold.

The grandparents were coming for Seder, and I asked them for a photo of themselves, dressed up. True to their awesome selves, they obliged.

Then I took a snapshot of all of us. This wasn’t as easy, because I had to set the camera on a timer and get everyone, including a little baby, into position. Cloud Man had just gotten off an airplane, and it was three days to seder and an hour to Shabbat, but he’s a sport and we managed. I had Volucris hold an empty basket. Then I photoshopped the whole thing (actually, I use Gimp because it’s free, specifically the scissors tool to cut and the layers function to paste, and scaled downloaded photos so that they would fit), and created the image.

Because if God had not taken us out of Egypt, we would still be slaves there:

Bowls, Paper, and Glue.

It’s a few weeks to Passover, when every single room in the house must be cleaned and the kitchen practically sterilized to get ready for the holiday. And I have a toddler who absconds with pita and sandwiches, spreading leavened bread in her wake.

That makes it the perfect time of year to start the messiest project I can think of. If you are new to the blog (welcome!) then you probably think I’m nuts. If you’ve been reading for a while, then this sort of crazy will be no surprise.

Remember this?

As I mentioned in the comments, this is one giant stainless steel Ikea bowl (you don’t have one? You must have one if you want to make truly excellent potato kugel. Go and get one, I’ll convince my sister the Rebbetzin to guest post with her recipe. You won’t want to miss that). We stuck a medium size glass bowl from Sheshet, the Israeli chain store, on top of the Ikea bowl.

And then we covered the whole setup with a plastic bag and masking tape, to protect the bowls:

Even Sagitta helped.

And then we papier-mâchéd.

Wear old clothes or a smock.


To papier-mâché, you need paper and glue. I use torn newspaper strips from the weekly circular that is delivered to our home free every Thursday for this very purpose (the rest of the city gets a copy, too. Apparently papier-mâché is popular around here). We rip the paper up into long strips, about 3 cm wide. You can make glue out of flour and water, but I want this to be useable over Passover, so I used plain white glue diluted with water. I eyeball this dilution, but I like the glue to be just a little runny.

Dip the strips into glue, and press them on your frame. I like to put the strips on the frame vertically in one layer, then horizontally the next layer to make the final product nice and strong (remind me to tell you about the time we overdid it on a pinata for Volucris’s birthday. It wasn’t pretty).

So now, some nine or ten layers later, we have this:

It should be reasonably dry come Sunday.


Now some kids love papier-mâché; there is something about getting your hands all glue covered and sticky that promotes well being and peace as well as excellent conversation. Other kids, however, would rather stick their hands into a viper pit. Those are the ones who like to rip the paper and take the photographs of the process and keep their hands clean and dry. Before you invest in a giant project it’s best to know which kind of kid you have, or you’ll never hear the end of it.

I have both kinds of kid, so I now have a papier-mâché covered bowls, a lovely stack of paper for tomorrow’s part of the project, and photographs to illustrate the blog. Stay tuned. If the layers are dry enough tomorrow, we’ll do the next part and you’ll see where we are going with this.

Tal-Mu-Deh… the Grown Up Version?

One of our friends in Korea has the Korean Talmud for Grown Ups. When he sends me more information, I will post.

In other news, we are getting ready for Pesach.

Do you think Sagitta grabbed the scissors in order to trim her bangs? I just can’t bring myself to cut her hair, even if she chronically pulls out every ponytail holder, clip and barrette I put in. On the one hand, it makes her look like a terrier and obscures her vision. On the other hand… I’m just not ready to cut it. Maybe there’s a clip I haven’t tried yet. And if I wait, eventually her hair will just catch behind her ears.

Comment if you have a suggestion, I’m willing to try anything. Except the obvious.

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