Posts in Practical Parenting

Book Recommendation: The War that Saved My Life

October 28th, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting, Reading Recommendations 4 comments

When looking for books for my children, I used to peruse the Newbery Honor books (and, yes, until I started writing this piece, I thought it was Newberry). Since I care about morals as well as language, I admit to favoring books that were chosen for the award in earlier decades. With that in mind, I am delighted to recommend a recent honoree, The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.

This book and its sequel, The War I Finally Won, tell the story of Ada, a ten-year-old British evacuee from London during World War II. I appreciated the depiction of England during wartime including rationing, bombing, the death of so many soldiers and the real fear of invasion. But the story is deeper than a historical fiction sketch of England in the 1930s and 1940s.

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Growing with Nancy

October 22nd, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting, Reading Recommendations 4 comments

In addition to what I recently wrote, Sarah Mackenzie makes another important point in her book, The Read-Aloud Family. When we read to older children we expand their vocabulary. While a child might get frustrated  reading a book too much above his or her comfortable reading level, children begin to decipher unfamiliar words in context when a parent is reading.

Even when a child is reading at an advanced level, reading aloud has an added benefit. I think every homeschool parent of committed readers has been amused when their children mispronounce words that they have only met through printed matter. Reading aloud gives children a chance to hear new vocabulary words as well as see them.

Thinking so much about reading aloud reminded me of a Musing from a few years back. I hope you enjoy this reprint:

Superman comic books may not generally be considered advanced literary material, but the childhood hours I spent reading them did help me do well on my SATs.  While I didn’t read the comics for vocabulary lessons, years later the spurious documents that one criminal used served me admirably when I needed to pick the correct multiple choice synonym for that word.

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Read Aloud – Please

October 22nd, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting, Reading Recommendations 6 comments

One of the greatest blessings of homeschooling is time. Not having to rush out of the house in the morning or spend time on homework in the evening puts you in control (as much as possible) of your family’s hours. You gain all those hours that are otherwise spent on parent/teacher nights and working on projects that may not have anything to do with what you think is important.

Reading aloud was one of our family’s favorite ways to use the expanse of time at our disposal. Like many moms, I read voraciously to my toddlers and younger children. But we read aloud well after our children were themselves proficient readers. We regularly read at our Shabbat table, to the point that some of our regular guests were miffed if there was a week they weren’t invited. While they could have picked up Swallows and Amazons or The Microbe Hunters on their own, they enjoyed following along with us. Sometimes we read to the children as a group, an activity that strengthened family bonds. Other times reading was a one-on-one experience. Some of my fondest memories are sitting in front of a fireplace with my sixteen-year-old son, reading A Tale of Two Cities together. 

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The Gosnell Movie

October 18th, 2018 Posted by Practical Parenting, Susan's Musings 31 comments

I did not want to see this movie. Despite its PG-13 rating, I knew that it would be distressing. How could it not be? Dr. Kermit Gosnell was a prolific abortionist sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole. He was convicted for (among other things) murdering three infants and of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a patient at his clinic.

The reason that I am posting this as a Practical Parenting column as well as a Musing is that I recommend you take the parental guidance part of the movie’s rating very seriously. I would not have wanted to see this movie when I was pregnant or nursing. If my child’s youth group was going to see it, I would try, at a minimum, to see it myself first and decide if it is appropriate for my child. In Hollywood’s world, gore and violence are routine, so to them this movie may seem unremarkable, but the subject matter is mature and the visual impact is powerful.

The Gosnell trial is relatively recent history and the movie’s producers make clear that most of the material is drawn from transcripts and police reports. I knew of the trial and how unprofessionally the press tried to ignore it. It was a fight to produce the movie as well, and there is no question that there is a strong cultural attempt to suppress it. Each and every person who acted in or worked on the film is a hero because there will be ramifications to his or her career.

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Still Mothering: An Update

October 16th, 2018 Posted by Practical Parenting 6 comments

Almost six years ago, I wrote:

My baby came home. O.k., as a third-year medical student, he isn’t technically a baby. He isn’t even technically my baby as three younger sisters arrived after him. And he only came home for four days. But any mother reading this knows what I’m feeling.

There seems to be so little I can do for my children now that they are grown. It filled my heart to be able to cook his favorite meal, prepare his bed with clean sheets and pick him up at the airport. Forgotten is how tiring it was to prepare nutritious meals every night, to do constant laundry (though from about the age of nine my children were responsible for their own clothing) and to be the on-call chauffeur. Also forgotten (almost) is the exhaustion of sleepless nights when he was an infant, the disgust at his joyful eating of slugs in the back yard as a toddler and even my fright and annoyance when as a teenager he almost drove my car off a cliff.

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Book Recommendation: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

October 14th, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting, Reading Recommendations No Comment yet

I get a thrill every time I read a book that prods me to grow a bit, makes my day brighter or grants me a portal into a world different from mine. When a book does all three of those things it is a definite winner. It gets bonus point if I can share it with the young people in my life and watch it expand their horizons.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio is such a book. Since it came out in 2012, many of you have probably read it already and/or seen the movie version. I was a late-comer to the fan club since I tend towards classics, but I came across it recently and I want to share my delight.

Wonder tells the story of fifth-grader Auggie Pullman, a boy born with a severe craniofacial deformity. Because of health concerns and repeated operations he has never been to school, and now that is about to change. The book is divided into sections that tell of his entrance to school through his own eyes and then through the eyes of his “normal” sister, her boyfriend and her estranged  childhood friend, as well as from the perspectives of some of Auggie’s classmates, whose behaviors range from kind to bullying.

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Our Teacher, the Judge

October 4th, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 4 comments

As I wrote in my post, Insecurities of a Homeschooling Mom, for many years I had a nagging worry that I might be depriving my children of a truly great teacher such as the one I had in fifth grade. That concern wasn’t enough for me to stop homeschooling. After all, there were many other considerations and the stories I was hearing from friends with children in school reminded me that those teachers were few and far between. Still, the niggling worry lodged in the back of my mind, moving into a more prominent position whenever I was disappointed in my own teaching.

When I had already been teaching for a few years, I received a hug from Heaven reminding me that teachers are found in all sorts of places. My husband returned from a conference and informed us that he had invited a fascinating man he had met there to join us for Shabbat dinner. Our table was rarely without guests and my young crew (aged 1-11) took the news of this new arrival in stride.

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Insecurities of a Homeschooling Mom

September 20th, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 6 comments

It is no secret that I love homeschooling. That doesn’t, however, make me opposed to traditional schools. One of my major concerns during sixteen years teaching at home was, “Am I causing my children to miss out on Mrs. Richman?”

Mrs. Richman was my fifth-grade teacher. Our class full of easily bored and, hence, mischievous kids adored her. We worked harder in her class than for any other teacher. She introduced us to Shakespeare, setting us passages to memorize that I still remember. We honed our writing skills and in eighth grade I submitted a composition I had written for my fifth-grade class, and received an ‘A’ on it. She loved Greek mythology which, years later, led me to take classes in Greek and Roman classics in college.

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Take Two: Cyrus the Unsinkable Sea Serpent

September 12th, 2018 Posted by Practical Parenting, Reading Recommendations 9 comments

When I wrote about Cyrus, the Unsinkable Sea Serpent by Bill Peet, I thought that I had pretty much covered what I wanted to say. Then, one of my daughters made a point that I thought was worth sharing. Shortly after that, I read the synopsis of the book on Amazon and realized that I had another point to make as well. If this keeps up, my commentary on the book will be longer than the book itself.

My daughter noted that, like many older books, Cyrus uses language that is not familiar to most young children. While books like those of Dr. Seuss are easy for beginning readers as well as fun, their vocabulary is limited. The Cat in the Hat was certainly an improvement over scintillating school texts that used sentences like, “See Dick run,” but it doesn’t exactly utilize the richness of the English language.   

There is value in books that do just that. When that same daughter was three-years-old, I took her, along with her younger sisters, to visit my parents. Since our family was living on the other side of the country from where I grew up, many local aunts, uncles, cousins and friends came to see us. At one point my three-year-old walked into a living room filled with people and conversation and exclaimed in a clear and piercing voice, “What a pandemonium!” Not surprisingly, the pandemonium only grew.

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Making Sense of the World: Unit Studies

August 31st, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 3 comments

Two of my favorite homeschooling years occurred when I used KONOS as the basis of my curriculum. I heard one of the founders of KONOS speak at a homeschooling convention and loved the slogan she used to describe her perspective (which I’m probably not getting exactly right), “God put the wiggle in children, don’t take it out.”

KONOS was based on the idea of integrated unit studies, a concept that I heartily applaud. Each unit had a theme and what we covered in history, science, literature and Bible studies was chosen to fit into that theme. While KONOS was Christian-based, I found it “easy” to adapt because the themes were built on character traits, in Hebrew, what I would call midot.

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