Homeschooling this year (2011-2012)

I am a fan of Montessori methodology. I love enabling the kids to do for themselves! So that is really what I aim for. This is an overview of my system for this year. I’ll update with what I’m using for what subject in a future post.

This year, I have a 2nd grader (ds7) and a kindergartner (ds4.5, he’s not quite 5 yet, but really wants to do K work, so we’ll see).

Here is my system: each child receives a card with a list of their weekly assignments on it. They have a box with their own work in it (re-used cardboard box, which they will decorate as a project later). They also get a M-F worksheet, and for the first few weeks, we’ll budget their time together. They can do a little from each book each day, or do all of one book each day, depending on their choices. They have a few things that they need to get me involved in a lesson, which are marked, and they have a book of maps/geography that they will complete together. They need to schedule in time for each of these lessons that works for everyone, too. I am available before lunch to help with any questions and teach anything else they have trouble with for sure.

Each weekday, they are also responsible for davening (praying), doing their chores, and completing their daily four (from the book “Daily Five”, ) which includes 15 minutes each of reading to self, reading with someone, writing, and listening to reading. Each item needs to be checked off each school day. They also each get to “teach” something to someone younger. This helps the older student learn the material better and helps introduce the younger student to the material. Plus it fosters a sense of family and community that I LOVE.

Once they’ve done something, they bring it to me and we check it out together. I sign off on their cards and we keep track of the whole thing. If they do everything by their deadlines and get their daily chores done, we get a slushy at the end of the week together.

In general, I try to plan about 30-45 minutes of work a day for my kindergartner (not including art or other fun projects) and 1.5 hours or so for my 2nd grader. Again, they break it up and plan it themselves, so it could work out differently. I have a lot of this as independent work, and it is meant so each child is “in charge” of their learning. I don’t like coercion, and it isn’t good for anyone to fight or bribe through schoolwork! So I give it to the child to get their work done. There are consequences if/when needed, but so far, this has worked very well for us.

Here’s a photo of what I have in the cupboard so far (up top are books we aren’t currently using (gifts, too old, too young, etc), the bottom empty box is for “work” for ds2):

Yay for (home)school!


Apples and honey for Rosh Hashanah…and so much more!

It’s time to start thinking about Rosh Hashanah in more concrete terms. It’s a three day Yom Tov this year! I’ve already seen the sale of seats and even lulav and etrog/esrog, so it’s not too early. It’s rosh hodesh Elul!

Here is what I’ve done or am planning to do so far this week:

  • order seats for shul
  • pay shul dues (ours have always been due about now for the different shuls we’ve belonged to in our travels)
  • consider and probably order lulav and etrog for dh (still looking for less expensive “learning” one(s) for ds7 and ds4.5)
  • new tzitzit for ds 7 and ds 4.5
  • order pjs for all 4 kids (our tradition–they are always needed around this turn of the seasons!)
  • order/find needed clothing for kids: adjustable waist Shabbat pants for ds7, additional pjs for ds 4.5, new dressy outfits for all
  • purchase new special something for kids–legos? clics? Something to add to their simcha (joy).
  • order/find new something for me (outfit? tichel?)
  • check with dh about his clothing needs
  • take care of kittel, if your dh wears one for Yom Kippur
  • plan our Rosh Hashanah homeschooling lessons and projects
  • plan menu (but with all the simanim (special, ritual foods) we use, that’s a whole post by itself!)

Menu planning Monday

This week is a great example of how circumstances affect your meal plan!

Over the weekend, we had what was supposed to be a hurricane with several days of power outages, etc. Thankfully, it was more like a rainstorm in this area, so we didn’t have any damage to deal with and our power is still on. We did stock up on things that didn’t require refrigeration for feeding people while we had no electricity, which will be folded into our menu plan this week. I’m still working on clearing out the extras from the fridge, freezer, and pantry challenge. We also have Rosh Chodesh Elul, the new month of Elul, to celebrate with an extra dish or dessert this week Monday night, Tuesday, and Wednesday. We have guests coming for Shabbat lunch. And last, we are making a chesed meal (a gifted meal for a family with a new baby), and I usually make doubles to keep for our own dinner. All that goes into this week’s meal plan.

Breakfasts: Yogurt, cereal, and homemade (frozen) waffles

Lunches: Peanut butter sandwiches, cheese sandwiches, grilled cheese, quesadillas, hard boiled eggs (also gazpacho and my meat-loving dh has moroccan beef turnovers to take)

Monday: CORN (Clean Out the Refrigerator Night), ice cream/sorbet for dessert (Rosh Chodesh!)

Tuesday: (Breakfast for dinner night usually) Taco night (frozen ground beef, special for Rosh Chodesh!)

Wednesday: Chicken nuggets for kids, spicy chicken wings (from the freezer)

Thursday: Mexican night this week: tortillas, homemade refried beans, rice, cheese, salsa, etc.

Friday: Challah, salads (roasted eggplant, hummus, zhug, olive relish, pepper salad), moroccan cigars, pumpkin spice cake

Saturday (with guests): Challah, salads, plated oriental chicken salad, spice rubbed chicken, meatballs, rice pilaf, spinach kugel, pumpkin spice cake.

Sunday: Pancakes (plus extra for the freezer).

Parmesan zucchini

When I was helping out with meals for someone sick, I needed something comforting and not too spicy for a sick tummy. Here is a simple and delicious recipe that I made for everyone. Serves 4.

  • 3-4 zucchini (depending on size)
  • 2 T butter
  • 1/4C parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

First, thinly slice the zucchini.                                               

Now preheat your pan over medium heat, then add your butter. It should melt quickly. Tip in the zucchini and cook for 5 or so minutes. You don’t want to cook it to death, but you do want the veggie cooked. It should still be firm – can I use al dente for a veggie? That’s what you want.

Now sprinkle with parmesan cheese and a little pepper, and serve (here I did with pasta and tomato sauce).


Zhug is a really spicy, strongly flavored Yemenite hot sauce. My husband loves it with pretty much everything, but especially roasted eggplant and challah. (I don’t remember where I got this recipe–years ago–but the measurements are approximate.)


1 lb serrano peppers
5 whole heads garlic
1 C or 1 bunch cilantro
2t crushed red pepper
1/2 t cumin
pinch of salt, or to taste

Check greens, peel garlic, and cut tops off peppers. Process peppers, garlic, and cilantro until texture you like, we do to semi smooth paste. Add in remaining ingredients, stir. Stores well in the refrigerator for a few weeks.

Mouth and eye-wateringly good! Very Happy

Monday: Menu plan for the week

I’m working on a pantry/fridge/freezer challenge. So here we go!

Monday: CORN (AKA Clean Out the Refrigerator Night): We have leftover sweet and sour meatball sandwiches (on challah rolls), some sides, and other odds and ends.

Tuesday: been, cheese, and rice enchiladas (several cans of enchilada sauce in my pantry and bags of beans and rice in my freezer)

Wednesday: beef kabobs (from frozen ground beef)

Thursday: Pasta and breadsticks (extra canned tomatoes and my kids’ favorite dinner night)

Friday: Challah, salads (roasted eggplant, hummus, zhug, olive tapenade (fish)), kung pao chicken (frozen) and rice, lemon cream cake

Shabbat lunch: Challah, salads, gazpacho, sweet and sour chicken (frozen raw in sauce), spinach kugel (frozen from…ahem…Pesach) , lemon cream cake

Sunday: Bagels (frozen) with cream cheese or peanut butter / Salmon (Frozen)

Breakfasts here in our blessed house are usually yogurt with toppings, cereal with milk, and sometimes thawed muffins like my spiced pumpkin cream cheese muffins. Lunches this week will be some of my frozen tv dinners, sandwiches, and gazpacho from last Shabbat.

Olive tapenade (fish)

This is one of my dh’s all time favorite relish or appetizer salad. It’s colorful (black, green, and red) and can serve as your fish in your appetizer course. I like to scoop with a mini scoop onto a lettuce leaf “cup” if plating individually, or simply with a spring of parsley for garnish.

  • 2 – 6 oz cans of black olives, finely chopped
  • 1 jar (about 6 oz) of green olives with pimentos, finely chopped
  • 2T minced garlic
  • 1/4 C fresh minced parsley (or 1.5 T dried)
  • 3/4 t dried oregano
  • 2 T anchovy paste, or 1 small can anchovy fillets mashed well

Combine all ingredients and marinate overnight or longer. Serve chilled with toasted bread rounds, sliced baguettes, or challah.