Someone told me it’s all happening at the zoo…

Yesterday, the Things and I trekked out to the Bronx Zoo for our first “official” homeschool event.  It was a class for 2-4 year-old homeschoolers, and of course a chance for them to “socialize.”  All in all, a disappointment.

Firt of all, I don’t drive anymore.  Between dealing with Builder’s Explorer (he’s one of the few people who can justify ownership of an SUV, but I still hate the thing) and dealing with bad New York drivers (see my post on Boro Park WMDs), I am sticking with public transportation, car services and walking.  Fortunately, car services do provide car seats.  (Hey, I learned something new!)  So we took a car service out to the Bronx.  True, there is a stop for the zoo off the 5 train, but who in their right mind is going to shlep two babies and a double stroller up and down all those damn stairs?

(Yeah.  Turned out the babysitter was a flake.)

So we get there, and despite the class being listed on Jewish Homeschoolers of NYC, I was the only Jewish family there.  I don’t mind my kid getting a little diversity, but I knew Builder wouldn’t be too happy.  Also, none of the parents, myself included, were actually homeschooling yet!  All of them had brought their oldest children, 2 and 3 year olds.  Some had decided they would homeschool, some were yuppie parents weighing their options, but none of them were really “official” yet.  (If your kid’s under six, you ain’t homeschooling.  Sorry.) 

So, we get to the classroom in the Gorilla House, and I could tell right away that the class leader was expecting an older crowd.  I guess she didn’t get the memo that everyone in the class would be under 4.  She expected everyone to sit still and listen, know their letters, and accomplish all of these feats without parental help.  Once she figures out that this group still has some members in diapers (including Thing 1), she has to switch gears very quickly.  So, she pulls out a frog puppet, which Thing 1 immediately covets.  When the puppet goes away,  Thing 1 lets me, and the entire class, know that she wannnnts it back.  Right at the top of her lungs.  Yeah, not one of our prouder moments.  I soon find out, however, that the yuppie parents have been dragging their kids to events like this for quite a while, and their little ones know how to behave.  Only one other member of the group has a younger sibling, and by younger, I mean practically Thing 1’s age.  So, not only am I behind on the “socialization,”  I’m also breeding too much.

After we match a few animals to the letters their names start with, then the fun begins.  We get to see live animals!  A chinchilla and a turtle put in an appearance, and I actually get Thing 1 to sit still long enough to pet both animals.  Finally, as little attention spans begin to wander, we take a tour of the Gorilla House.  After the class, I walk around with a couple of the other parents, and find out that winter is not the best time for a trip to the zoo.  Many of the exhibits are closed because of the weather.  So the other parents and I make our way to the giraffe house, and I find out that there’s an art class for toddlers at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  The 3-year-old “student” in this class lets me know that “Perseus” holds Medusa’s head.  And I thought Thing 1 was doing well correctly identifying the color pink.

However, the day wasn’t a total loss.  I did meet the mom who put the class together, and she is a real homeschool mom, in that her kid is actually old enough to be homeschooling.  We talked for a while about the logistics of organizing a meetup in Central Park for the homeschoolers on the board.   Finally, people to talk shop with!  How to find materials for limudei kodesh!  And, of course, how to navigate New York tricky homeschool laws!

Should I go back next week?  Naah!

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Published in: on February 26, 2009 at 4:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mom’s Day Out

Well, I think I may have found a babysitter.  Now comes the moment I’ve been waiting almost a year for–Mom’s Day Out!  Five glorious hours without my kids!

Don’t get me wrong; I love my kids.  BUT–after a year of being with them 24-7, I seriously need a break.  Since this is going to be a weekly ritual, I need to figure out what to do first.  Do I:

-Take a nap without having hardback books and toys thrown at my head

-Eat a meal without having to stop every five minutes to nurse a baby, while “sharing” half of it with a toddler who salivates over it, takes two bites, and then won’t touch it

-Read a book without pictures or rhyming text

-Get a mani/pedi

-Catch a movie

-Take in a Broadway matinee

-Buy fabric

-Crochet

Decisions, decisions.  I’ll let everyone know how it went

Published in: on February 14, 2009 at 8:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

I am woman, hear me sing

Of all the halachas out there, only one really grates me.  I mean this one REALLY gets under my skin.  It’s not Shabbos, or kashrus, or covering hair (although I’m not sure why I should cover my hair with hair.  But OK, when in Rome.)

It’s kol isha.

I mention this because this week is Parshas Beshallach, aka Shabbos Shirah.  It;s called Shabbos Shirah because there are, between the parshah and the haftarah, three songs.  And, two of them happen to be sung by women!

We all read the story every day of the parting of the sea, and how Moshe Rabbeinu sand a victory song in praise of G-d actions.   But afterwards, Miriam picked up her tambourine and, not to be outdone by her brother, led all the women in song.  Shocking!  After all, women can’t sing in front of men! 

One explanation I heard for this was that the women all stood off to one side so the men wouldn’t hear them, and Miriam’s percussionary prowess drowned out their voices.  Since we know that there were 600,000 men, and most of them were probably married, that would mean there were about a half-million women.  Where were they standing in that open desert, Eretz Canaan?  Also, I don’t care if you have Peter Criss of KISS doing percussion, one tambourine can’t drown out a half-million voices in an open plain.  Another was that the Torah had not yet been given, so there was no prohibition of kol isha yet.  Really?  Then how did Yaakov Avinu know to say Shema when he was reunited with his son (Shema is not taught until Devarim chapter 6)?  What were Shem and Eber teaching at their tent yeshiva?  More importantly, how did Noach know which animals were kosher when he loaded up the ark before the Flood?

However, Miriam is not the only one rocking out in praise of Hashem.  In the haftarah, taken from Sefer Shoftim (Judges), we hear the story of Devorah’s victory against Sisera’s army, mostly made possible by Yael and her “stake” dinner., Afterwards, Devorah and Barak sing a little duet about Hashem’s triumph over evil.  W00t!  However, something tells me that this had to be a public act.  After all, if it made it Tanach, odds are she didn’t perform this little number in the closet.

Now we have two women, both of them righteous, both of them prophets, singing in public.  How then do we justify the halachah of kol isha?

Some say that a woman’s voice is so powerful, it can seduce a man.  After all, look at the myth of the Sirens.  Heck, just look at the old 900 lines.  However, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.  From Frank Sinatra to the Jonas Brothers women and girls have gone crazy for a man’s voice.  Personally, I have chosen dating partners based solely on their voices twice in my life.  Neither experience ended particularly well.  (Builder’s voice is pretty average.  But he can still do a pretty fair “Askinu Seudasa.”)

Here’s an idea.  Let’s pass a new law that men can’t sing in front of women.  The only music permitted is instrumental.  That should leave everyone pretty well dissatisfied.

Published in: on February 2, 2009 at 4:00 pm  Comments (1)  

Planning for next year

It’s hard to believe, but Thing 1 will be 3 years old this fall.  My sweet, adorable baby will be starting preschool this fall.

In a manner of speaking.

I’ve already come up with a tentative four-day schedule that combines stories, music, songs and pre-school skills.   Each day’s “studies” should take about an hour, plus playtime and teatime.  Our day will start with “circle time,” when start with a candle and drum.  The candle’s colors will be chosen for the season and appropriate time on the Jewish calendar.  Afterwards will be a song and davening.  Following circle time will be a reading, preschool skills, craft/cooking/block play to classical music, another reading, and Jewish studies (aleph-bet and stories from the Tanach).  Then, the rest of the day will be spent in “masterly inactivity” at a local park (weather permitting) followed by “tea time,” which will include poetry.

I’ll be pulling my materials from the Ambleside Online Year 0 list.  For the Jewish Studies, I’ll be asking for help from a homeschool-friendly source, who shall remain nameless (let’s just call him my Ivrit connection). 

Time to start gathering materials.  Now for a name.  Still need to think of one….suggestions will be helpful.

Published in: on February 1, 2009 at 2:17 pm  Leave a Comment