Jewish Life

Learn From the Maccabees to Unlock Your Courage to Homeschool

Scan_20151106Feeling like homeschooling is going nowhere? Are you fighting to get your child to do their school work everyday? Do they seem unmotivated and just want to play video games all day? Is your spouse is starting to second guess this whole homeschooling idea? Is family pressuring you to put your child back in traditional school? Does the fear that if you put your kid back in traditional school terrify you? That they will be mislabeled as “special” and “behind” in their educational progress? Afraid they will be bullied for being label as such? Did you imagine this would be just like regular school except your child would call YOU teacher?

Homeschooling is hard and it takes a special courageous person to do it. Yes! I said courageous! Dr.  Robert Biswas-Diener from the Courage Quotient describes courage as, “the willingness to act toward a moral or worthwhile goal. Despite the presence of risk, uncertainty, and fear.

This week is Hanukkah and I’m going to show you how the courage of the Maccabees reclaiming the temple thousands of years ago can help you with homeschooling today. Because what it all comes down to is courage.

Being out numbered and overpoweredIsrael business

Approximately 2000 years ago, the Greeks demanded that the Jews worship their gods and eventually destroyed and defiled the temple with their sacrificed and statues of their pagan gods. A small band of Jews, known as the Maccabees, defeated the Syrians and the Greeks despite being out numbered and over powered. Yet, they over came their fear and destroyed the army. Then reclaimed the temple.

As a homeschooler you can also feel under-powered against the state, the school system, and even against other parents because each and every one of them is telling you to place your child in the school system. Their are truancy laws to make sure your child is in school at all times. Nosey school system administrators wanting to know your curriculum and progress. Non-homeschooling parents giving you that “look” when you tell them your child is homeschooled ,thinking you must be some fanatic. The social ostracization is enough to make you rethink this whole homeschooling thing. You end up feeling powerless and fearful of going to jail or worse, having your kids taken from you cause your a “bad parent” because you decided to homeschool.

Rebellion against the majority

The Jews also felt as if they were loosing themselves. Practicing Judaism became a crime so many Jews conformed and began to worship the gods of the Greeks. They assimilated into the society at that time.

Not long ago, homeschooling was a common practice globally. It wasn’t until the industrial age that traditional schools as we know them today came into practice. Initially they were sponsored by factories to help create the perfect worker in that field. It was not to meant to educate them above their class, but that was the result. More and more people began to follow in step and eventually it became the norm. Other homeschooler will describe this “factory” education as a reason to create docile workers which many homeschoolers feel is what is coming out of the public school systems today. Today, to homeschool is to be against the norm.

Can still be afraid, but still do it.eternal light

Do you think the Maccabees were not afraid? Do you not think that they felt a sense of crazy when faced with an army that outnumbered and out equipment them? They went in thinking, today may be the day I die. Yet, they overcame their fears and marched on with a zealousness that the Greek army could not compare as the Maccabees were fighting for the Jewish way of life for the present as well as future Jews.

We all fear failing our children. Greatest when homeschooling. Wondering if we are the best thing for them. Decision on if we are even qualified to teach. These are all verbal “weapons” that the school systems and educational government departments throw at us to make us afraid.

Speak up to the higher authority

With the Maccabees it was the Greek and their gods. In fact the first one to die was a Jew because he refused to conform. Today, in homeschooling its the naysayers. These are the school system, the Department of Education, the state, and even some parents. They are all telling you to conform. To allow your child to become this unthinkable, creative empty robot. Critical thinking in primary school has all but been eliminated. Music and Art programs are disappearing across the nation. Standardized test have become the new way to teach because that means money for the schools. If a child falls behind they are label and separated from the group. Those who excel are told to “dumb down” so they can follow the majority due to lack of special educational funding.menorah-animation

What to do

You are not powerless. You are not a “bad parent”. By homeschooling you are rebelling against the majority, traditional schoolers, and telling them that you want a quality, personalized education for your child because your child is not something that can be assembled on a factory line. They are unique and one-of-a-kind. No-one in this world can replace them. Despite what traditional school will teach them. You, too, must continue the fight to find new ways to make homeschooling successful. To put aside your fear of failing and face that fear with the understanding you might fail, but you will never fail your child. Is your child able to talk and communicate with others? Then you have not failed. You are teaching them the life skills they need to know and when they are ready to know it. When they are struggling, you step back. When they are excited, you help them run with it. Decrease your fear by stop being afraid of failing. Failing is what helps us grow. It helps us to see what works for our child and what doesn’t.

Share with me and others, what is your biggest fear in homeschooling?

For me, its that my son will want to stop because I have see the progress that he has made since we started homeschooling and I fear he may want to return to traditional schooling one day.

Comment below with what your biggest homeschooling fear is.

Straight Talk About Transitioning to Modest Dressing

IMG_3322Every once in awhile, you come across a moment that makes you rethink the way you are living. At the beginning of this year I was sitting down, listening to my Rabbi talk about how important it is for us, as parents, to walk the walk. To change at least ONE thing that makes us more observant during this time that our children prepare for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah. It was in that moment, I looked over at my eldest who had just FINISHED her bat mitzvah when I realized what I needed to do. There she was, in tight skinny jeans that hanged off her waist and a see through t-shirt with a camisole underneath. She looked like something out of a fashion magazine but being in the synagogue she looked out of place. She looked obscene. Then I took stock of myself. I too looked out of place with my v-neck t-shirt exposing my cleavage., my hair up in a messy bun and my jean pants ripped at the knees.

This was me just 10 months ago. 

How could I tell my own daughter to not dress inappropriately when I myself was dressed inappropriate? That’s when I decided to take the plunge and being to practice Jewish Modesty, Tzniut.

During my transition to a more modest lifestyle, I ended up affecting other people unknowingly. One of those people was my good friend Kristi. Kristi had come to the conclusion that she too also wanted to dress more modestly. I decided to go ahead and sit down with her and find out why she would decide to make this change despite not being married or having any kids.

Gin: Why did you decide to make a change and try to dress more modestly?IMG_4962

Kristi: Um, a few reasons actually. I saw the style and actually really liked it. We had googled it in (conversion) class one night and a saw a few and I said to myself, “yeah I could wear that!”  Also, I had been dressing very immodestly and felt like it was time to grow up with my clothes, working in office and all. 

Finally, I wanted to do something different with my Judaism. I wanted something that pushed me out of my comfort zone. 

Now, all of the rituals (of Judaism) came naturally to me then finally once I started doing dressing modestly I fell in love. I was going to just do it until my adult bat mitzvah and then reassess, but I think I will stick with it.

Now I know you had some difficulties with dressing modestly. Can you describe your biggest from when you first started?

Oh well, I still have them! There’s two. One is I started when it was hot in Texas. LOL Not only that but there were no modest clothes so I had to wear the same thing every day. It was hot. Also I have not fully transitioned and still own a lot of immodest clothes. So the temptation to wear short sleeve shirt on a hot day instead of doing laundry is so strong.

Have you heard of modest clothing companies like Shelly Shelly? And kosher casual? If so, what has prevented you from purchasing them?

Okay, yeah Kosher casual ! Yes, I think that might’ve been one I googled. But I’m nervous to purchase online clothes.

How do you feel when you dress modest?

I feel like I’m on a personal level with G-d out of everything I’ve done that is Jewish. Dressing modestly is the most meaningful thing I have done vs. everything else that I have done. Like lighting candles for Shabbat, going to service, and praying, It’s obvious to the world what I’m doing because I’m Jewish but when I dress modestly, it’s truly between me and God. No one sees me cover my elbows or put on a skirt and says, “Well, she must be Jewish.” If that makes sense.

Would you say you don’t feel like you stand out when you dress modestly?

I did at first. I felt like I stood out. But now I don’t know if I got used to it or what but I don’t think I stand out anymore.

Did current fashions have any influence on your decision to dress more modestly or  would you say it was purely for religious reason?

Um, I would say fashion had about a 20% influence.

Any advice for those transitioning based on your experience?IMG_4975

Like I said, we pulled up Google images and saw the modest clothing. LOL. Make your journey your own. Don’t beat yourself up if you ever struggle because you will. Just have fun with it.

Okay. Would’ve helped if there was someone who guided you? Like a how-to video or someone personally raiding your closet?

I think the how-to would have definitely helped. Anything that I try to find on the subject involved hair. I learned everything I know from Google images of women dressing modestly. Having a person in my closet, not so much, because like I said I wanted it private and personal and I wanted to make it my own. Something as simple as “these are the basic rules, Here are some fun examples,” Would have been amazing! And not something designed to be like, “okay now you’re married so now you do this.”

Has anything stopped you from asking someone you know who already practices modesty? And if so, why?

Definitely. Being single and stay modestly by choice, not because it’s how I was raised, was definitely hard. Having something new and kind of overwhelming is bad enough, but I felt surrounded by people who meant well but we’re telling me how unnecessary it was, how they could never do it, and how it wasn’t like I was married or anything. At my lowest, it made me feel like I had less value as a Jewish woman unless I was married. That was the absolute lowest it got. Like I wanted to give up. Ironically, I felt like my biggest support and the person who kept me focused on the spiritual reason I am doing this was my very non-Jewish mom.

Thank you for answering these questions.

You’re welcome. Thank you for listening.

Like Kristi,  I found my transition difficult mostly because I am a Conservative Jew and not Orthodox. I had no help either. I did find some inspiration from people online like Jew in the City and Wrapunzel who had style ideas from a more modern jewish orthodox point of view. Since then I’ve shared my knowledge with Kristi and all those who wish to put a little more observance in their life. In fact, I’ve made a video to help those, like Kristi, who need just a couple of ideas.

As a result of my transition, I have found that my daughter has become more conscious of what she is wearing and dresses just a LITTLE less revealing than she was. She knows the “rules” on modesty and for the most part, she covers at least one of the items. Because of that I am happy.

My daughter was not the only reason I have done this journey. I too wanted to improve my relationship with G-d and my husband. Dressing this way, acting this way, and living this way has given my relationship with G-d and my relationship with my husband greater meaning than I could ever imagine.

Right now, I’m inviting you to sign up online to join me and receive updates and tips on Jewish Life here in Texas. A free pocket-book on Modest dressing will be yours once you subscribe. Join now!
IMG_3334

The Secret Method of How to Teach Your Child Was Hidden in the Bible

David boredHe won’t do his work again. He’s just sitting there; head down on the table looking at the paper as if the work will just magically be completed if he looks long enough. It’s another frustrating day teaching English. You don’t blame him. You hated English in school, too. Except when they played movies. SchoolHouse Rock ROCKED! It’s the only reason you know what a conjunction is AND its function! (Admit it, you just sang that song!)

This is what you thought homeschooling was. He fills out the paperwork and you basically take on the role of “teacher”. Correcting his work, giving him grades; but now you’ve hit a wall. He’s refusing to do any work. He wants to play video games and watch TV. Anything but learn about conjugating verbs.

Un-schooling is a different. In un-schooling the child decides what they want to learn. They are not learning nothing and playing video games all day (which isn’t entirely a bad thing). As parents we leave “crumbs”. It’s a method called “strewing“. This is when the kids began to question what they find and then seek it out. As Jews we are ALWAYS seeking and questioning. What is the old joke? With two Jews you will get three opinions?

The Tanakh (Bible) also dictates what we should teach our children. In Deuteronomy we are commanded to teach our children the mitzvos, laws and judgments. There are 613 mitzvahs.David Shopping

That’s a lot.

Thing is, they all don’t apply to us at any one time. However, they do apply to a variety of issues in life. There is a massive amount of laws on just business ALONE.(This covers your subjects in Math, Economics, Financing, etc.)

There are civil laws on how to interact with each other, as well as animal laws governing how to treat animals. (Perfect for fulfilling the requirements for Government or Good Citizenship.)

We have Kosher laws that dictate what we can and cannot eat, defining our Health and Nutrition. As well as Family Purity laws in regards to marriage, surprisingly leading into Human Biology.

Why do we have so many laws?

Because when the Hebrews left Egypt they left without a government to rule them. They needed these laws to survive the desert. Left without a structure they would have probably perished. I mean look what happened as soon as Moses left them alone for a minute! They were building golden calves and having wild orgies. The people needed structure and Hashem knew this.

This isn’t the only time we are told to teach our children. In the Passover Haggadah we are commanded to replay the story of Exodus to our children. (History. See where I’m going here now.) And we are commanded to study Torah which we do with our weekly Parsha. (Reading & Writing.)david desk space

So where does un-schooling fall into this?

It’s life. It’s how you, as a Jew live your life. Guide your child how to live their life according to Judaism and you are un-schooling. You’re not just sitting down with paper. There is no test. At least not a test that anyone on Earth can grade. You are just doing your day-to-day stuff.

It’s OK to add anything outside of that, just make it all based on their interest. Again, with whatever bread crumbs you put. Sometimes it’s going to be video games and that’s OK. Talk with them about their video games. Advise them how it applies to Judaism. The more they communicate with you the bigger their vocabulary will become and the more comfortable they will become with talking with others. (Spelling and Public Speaking.) Not to mention how much more they will feel part of this world as a Jew.

Start strewing now. For more ideas on how to leave the breadcrumbs, sign up now for the free “Tips on Strewing” guide by entering your name and email below.




Learn Hebrew Before Your Child’s Bat Mitzvah

IMG_4864“Learning Hebrew is the easiest language to learn because of all the patterns..” -Rabbi Stuart Federow

Ok, seriously. I’m biased. That’s my Rabbi, but he’s not lying. Its true. There are SO many patterns that when you start looking for them, you will actually see them.

Now I’m not going to tell you how to speak Hebrew. Shoot! I’m still learning myself, but what I will share with you is where I’ve been learning them from.

*Your local synagogue/Chabad– many have a class at least ONCE in the year. Just ask someone. Don’t be shy. And if they don’t, still ask. They have a plan for the year by mid July and if you ask you just might get it on the agenda. If you are a member, usually it will be free.

*Hebrew Books- There are two books I’m going to recommend. The first is the “The First Hebrew Primer: 3rd Ed”. It’s really detailed to the point you’ll go into information overload, but will really get into conjugation for you. The second book is “Learn Hebrew Today: Alef-Bet for Adults. This is great if you have no-clue what the letters are and you are trying to figure how to say them.

*Jewish Community Center – There is usually an adult program they are affiliated with that will also teach. Usually there is a fee associated with it. I wouldn’t pay more that $60 for an all day lesson, IMO. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will you learn hebrew.

*Rosetta Stone – If you have the cash or time is truly testing on you before that big trip to Israel, get it. It worth it. My son and I can have different profiles on there so we are not ruining each other progress. Its more conversational Hebrew but don’t expect to read the Bible after this. Biblical Hebrew and Modern Hebrew are different. But again, that’s where the books above come into play.

*Online/Apps– Ok So I usually use two Apps, “AlephBetStory” to learn my letters, and “Nemo Hebrew” to practice actual words. Online there are also some free Hebrew guides. I’ve never used them as most wanted me to download something or they had so much advertising on their website that it was just an awful experience in general. So I can’t recommend any of those.

IMG_4807The big big big big BIG thing about learning to read Hebrew is to PRACTICE EVERY DAY FOR AT LEAST 30 MINUTES. You will forget. I’m at the synagogue everyday surrounded by Hebrew and still, I’ll forget in my Sunday class between a Bei and a Vei! Oy Vei!

~Gin