As part of the Mitzvot Unplugged series we are happy to welcome Amital from Organized Jewish Home to talk about resources her family uses for homeschooling.
Some of my favorite learning opportunities aren’t formal learning. There’s so much to talk about as you live your life: brachot as you eat and when there is lightning, chesed as you make a meal for a neighbor (and cooking, math, and life skills), middot when you feel angry or sad, or want to speak lashon hara – and all of that is not mentioning read through the parsha, specifically learning with your kids, or doing any formalized curriculum.
But we need some background and some teaching tools to work with. Here are some of my favorites:
Of course, seeing you and your spouse davening is the best thing to spark an interest. Here are some other resources:
For the young kids, this interactive siddur (Siddur Shema Kolenu) is great. They can follow along and daven by themselves, and you can choose to hear the tefillot in different pronunciations, and Hebrew or English text. We do the Sefardic. 😉
Tefilla trax: (also with Sefardi / Ashkenazi pronunciation choices). You can hear samples
here, but to download it you need to buy it. I actually made a “playlist” with our morning davening on it (cutting out the extra tunes and prayers we don’t do yet). The kids sometimes choose to daven along to the playlist. You can buy a specific siddur to go along with it, too, with transliteration in addition to the Hebrew, English, and some main themes.
Halachot and Yahadut (Jewish Learning)
My kids and I learn together every day as we go: brachot (including looking up questions), why we do what we do, etc. We also get a daily halacha e-mail that we often go through together. For a more formalized curriculum:
Living Lessons is a textbook, workbook, and teacher’s manual set that will run through the halachot mostly using Rambam’s order (by topic). It’s geared to students from 4th grade to 8th, and looks really good. I saw this at last year’s Torah Home Education Conference (they will be there again this year, along with a lot of other curriculum options! Find more information on the awesome conference coming in May 2013 here.)
This is on our list for next year.
We’re still searching for that perfect modern Hebrew curriculum – my Hebrew isn’t fluent, so it really needs to come from somewhere else. But learning the letters is a critical step. Here are some options:
Cap-It Learning: This is a very kid friendly program with the goal of Hebrew reading fluency. It introduces the letters using toys, visual cues, and more. It’s a good way to get familiar with the letters and includes a minimal vocabulary. The later levels focus more on reading and the davening.
Behrman House Hebrew Resources: Take a quick quiz to find out which resources are right for you. They have a big selection, including modern Hebrew and davening Hebrew choices, online, computer-based, or workbook based, and more. There are other Jewish educational books and workbooks as well.
Rosetta Stone: This is a course that claims to lead to fluency – we are not there yet! There is a listening component along with a speaking and typing component in both the homeschooling package and the regular package. The photos and materials they use have nothing to be with being Jewish – they are purposefully multi-cultural. I like this program, but so far, my kids haven’t really enjoyed it. It is available via CD or download, and you can go to the site and get a trial.
Hebrew language books, dvds, cds, videos, fluent friends, etc… are all very helpful here, too!
There are a lot of options for chumash workbooks (like the very popular Rabbi Winder’s Lashon HaTorah books), but some aren’t friendly to those without a good chumash basis themselves. Here are a few resources that are easy for English speaking parents to help – and learn along!
Bright Beginnings: A chumash workbook that is very useful, even to those of us without a lot of chumash knowledge. There is enough English in this book that it is not a problem to understand without Hebrew, the learning is skills-based, it breaks down the words in a logical and clear way, and it’s interesting.
Learn to Learn Chumash: This is a set of games and activities meant to help with chumash fluency and memorization of some key words / shoreshim. The graphics are pretty basic when compared with the video games you might see today (see screen shots on the description page), but the kids still enjoy playing these games.
Overall Jewish Education Tools
Chinuch.org : An amazing resource for all things Jewish learning. You can search by age group, subject, keywords, authors, and date. You can also find Jewish clip art (I use it for chore charts and mitzvah checklists), lap books, worksheets, and much more. It’s a good place to start out your search for something specific.
Room 613 : This site is specifically tailored to Jewish Homeschoolers. They do classes for different age groups in different topics, but they also have blogs and information you can use. We haven’t used the classes because of the time difference (we’re living overseas right now), but they look interesting!
Israel Book Shop:This is a bookstore with a big selection of educational materials, and even better, a homeschooling specialist (Risa) who can answer all of your questions! Risa will even send you sample pages to look at and see if it will suit your purposes. This is a wonderful resource!
Groups of like minded people: Yahoo groups like Jewish, Orthodox, and Homeschooling or Facebook Groups like Orthodox Jewish Homeschooling can give you a place to ask questions, be inspired, or vent. There are also many local groups (Jewish and not) that can give you ideas, homeschooling get-togethers, and more. Ask your local friends or search for them.
As you can see, there are a lot of options out there for a Jewish education. And this is just the tip of the iceberg! We find some things that work for one child don’t work as well for the next, some things are good for a while and then need to be changed, and some things are amazing – and we are all enjoying the ride!
Cover image source image cc by twechy
Tefila Trax image credit Rabbi Chaim Alevsky
Living Lessons workbook image courtesy Living Lessons
Kol Yisrael image courtesy Behrman House
Learn to Learn Chumash image taken from Learn to Learn Chumash by Davka Corporation
Other images via Amazon.
Besides actively homeschooling her children, Amital holds a PhD in psychology and teaches online college courses. She writes about organizing and streamlining an observant Jewish home and homeschooling at Organized Jewish Home.