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Feb 13 2014

Why I Added Some Jewish Learning to My Over-Scheduled Life

By at 12:15 pm

why I added Jewish learning to my life

I am undoubtedly overwhelmed, overextended, and stretched too thin on any given day, at any given moment. A 3-year-old son, almost 10-month-old twin daughters, a home to maintain, a small business we are trying to grow, a new photography venture, articles to write, a cooking club, and a few other activities all make my life insanely chaotic and wonderful.

Then why did I commit myself to one more thing? Because, if you notice the list above, there was nothing dedicated to being Jewish. I am committed to raising my children in a Jewish home, but was I doing enough to achieve that just by sending my son to the daycare at the local JCC? So when I was invited to join Chai Mitzvah, a women’s learning group at my synagogue, I jumped at the chance. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 2 2013

Stuff I’ve Learned from My 16-Month-Old

By at 10:15 am

elad nehorai with daughterI’ll be honest with you: when I was preparing to become a father, I had this image of myself handing out life lessons right and left. I imagined myself being this wise man with deep thoughts and ideas for my children that would mold them into incredible beings, perhaps one day reaching my great heights.

Well, my daughter is 16 months old, and although I haven’t been able to teach her so much yet, what with her inability to speak/listen, I’ve become distinctly aware that my imagination was way off.

The truth is, my daughter has taught me so much more in her little 16 months of existence than I will probably ever teach her over the rest of my life. She’s just awesome like that.

What did she teach me? Let’s start from the top. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 13 2012

Why I Want My Kids to Learn Russian

By at 3:19 pm

My mom, my son, and Lenin.

Just in case having one husband, three kids, and a half dozen freelance writing jobs weren’t enough, I’ve recently added another activity to my already tottering plate: taking the three aforementioned kids (expressing varying levels of enthusiasm) to JAR-Ptitsa, a new program at our temple designed to teach Jewish children about their heritage via music, art and drama… in Russian.

My African-American husband had no objection to it (especially as it leaves the house to himself for several hours while we’re gone), but he did point out, “You realize that’s the equivalent of me teaching the kids about their culture at a Friends of the Confederacy meeting.”

His point being: Why am I so determined to teach my children Russian when it’s the language of a country that, as far as he’s heard from every Soviet immigrant he’s ever met (and he’s met more than his share; not to mention spent many an evening as the only non-Russian speaker in a crowd), Jews were at best shunned, on average mistreated, and at worst, killed? Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 27 2012

What Homeschooling Actually Entails

By at 1:45 pm

When I was pregnant with my oldest son I made him a promise, and his brother after him, that I would do my best to give them happy childhoods full of wonder and magic, that I would prepare them for adulthood as best I could and give them the tools to live fulfilling lives.

That promise was at the center of my thoughts when we decided to homeschool and is the first thing I think about when I sit down every week to plan our schedule. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 14 2012

I Shouldn’t Have to Explain Why I Homeschool

By at 11:26 am

This year, when all of the kids our son’s age were entering pre-k, my husband and I made the final preparations on our plan to homeschool.

We looked into all of our options and decided that, while homeschooling is by far not the only good way to educate a child, it is how we have decided to educate ours.

I thought that my explanation would need to go no further. I assumed that most people would give the same response I give whenever a friend tells me their child is going to the local school, “That’s great!”

I was wrong. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 5 2012

Swooshing Vertical Blinds, Crinkling Paper, And Other Things My Daughter Taught Me

By at 9:04 am

As new parents, we assume all the responsibility for teaching lies with us; in many ways it does. After all, we’ve lived longer than our babies. We know how water faucets and doors work. The flip-side of familiarity, of course, is blindness and the chance to be distracted and bogged down by the petty and unimportant.

The beauty of a new baby is the opportunity to be excited by swooshing vertical blinds and crinkling paper all over again. Everything thrills and deserves study, and if you’re lucky to have a teacher like my Lila, you find you can learn plenty.

1. First things first, second things never. Lila is a cheerful baby, recognizable by her ear-to-ear grin. However, if she misses a nap or has to wait too long to eat – say, while we’re driving somewhere – her sweet temper can be displaced by miserable screaming. So, we’ve learned to stay focused on what matters. Every day, I concentrate on ensuring that Lila naps and eats, according to her body’s schedule. With that, everything else hums along.

2. Every day is special. I never liked mornings, but now, it’s a treat to see and hold Lila, who always flashes her smile. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Monday or a Friday. Every day is another opportunity to play. Be grateful for every day.

3. Lead with a smile. Smiling is infectious. There’s nothing like seeing Lila beaming to make grumpy commuters smile at us on the Metro. More effective than department store make-up, a smile lights up your face and distracts people from any raccoon eyes spawned by late nights.

4. Be persistent. The best way to master a new skill is to practice relentlessly. As adults, we sometimes forget that it takes time to become expert. Lila charmingly has no such expectations for herself. When she decided she wanted to move across the living room, she started with Plank Pose and jumped forward stiffly (a new Yoga pose I dubbed “Flying Plank”). From there, she progressed to scooting and crawling, all at her own pace. If you want to develop a flair for something, practice without an eye on the clock.

5. Develop resilience. Life involves hardship; there’s no avoiding it. Our best solution is become resilient, which Lila is already doing. I marvel, as I watch her practice standing, inevitably tipping over, often backwards, and sometimes headfirst into a table leg. Occasionally she cries – mostly seeming startled – but she’s always lunges right back toward the box or chair, pulling herself up yet again. Don’t let trips and falls ruffle your feathers; keep going.

6. Push your limits. Everyone has a comfort zone, and leaving it is hard. However, it can also be fun. Lila amuses by constantly finding new things to try and explore. Her latest athletic invention is leaping off the My Brest Friend pillow post-feeding onto the couch, then crawling to the other end and peering over the curved edge, giggling all the way. If I weren’t fast on my feet, she’d leap onto the floor too. Look beyond the edges of your known world. That way may lie fun.

7. Be joyful. Nothing makes Lila happier than singing. When she cries, it’s the fastest remedy, and when she’s happy, there’s nothing more likely to elicit squeals of joy, except maybe dancing. Having an audience makes both singing and dancing more fun, and both add lightness to any day. Sing or dance daily; music makes even the gloomiest day brighter.

8. Be a change agent. Presumably, there are things you don’t like about your life. The question is what you do about them. Lila has already decided to be proactive. While she still can’t vote with her feet, she has already learned to remove herself from situations she dislikes. For example, increasingly, diaper and wardrobe changes involve Lila’s rolling or crawling away. I know she’d rather be tugging at wires in the wall or pulling the doorstop to hear it vibrating. So, I persist, trying mightily to quickly finish the change at hand, but so does Lila. If there’s something you dislike, move on or try to change it.

These are important lessons for a parent, and I envision many more to come. After all, Lila still can’t speak. If she could, I imagine she’d quote Rabbi Hillel, citing him as her personal inspiration: “I get up. I walk. I fall down. Meanwhile, I keep dancing.”

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