Friday, April 24, 2015

Preparing for the Feast of Unleavened Bread - Spring Cleaning!

This was our first Passover celebration so I had a lot to study and learn. What I found out was that I also had a lot of work ahead of me. You see, the day after the passover is the week long Feast of Unleavened Bread. This requires you to eat unleavened bread for 7 days. However, since you also eat no leaven on the day of Passover you end up going eight days without leaven. Scripture says:

Exodus 12:18 In the first month, from the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread until the twenty- first day of the month at evening.

The Passover celebrates when God protected the first born of the Israelites from the angel of death which was the tenth plague against Egypt. The Feast of Unleavened Bread begins its celebration on the day they were led out of Egypt, the morning after the Passover.

Since Jewish days begin when the sun goes down in the evening, it can get somewhat confusing, especially when it calculates out to eight days but the bible keeps saying for "seven days" you shall not eat leaven. I followed both traditional Jewish and Messianic Jewish websites to help me figure it out.

The feast begins with the leaven being removed from the home. This is where the lengthy preparation comes in. Scripture tells us:
Exodus 12:15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel...19 For seven days no leaven is to be found in your houses. If anyone eats what is leavened, that person will be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a sojourner or a native of the land. 20 You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwelling places you shall eat unleavened bread."
Because it says no leaven is to be found in your houses Jewish tradition teaches that you must clean your house entirely because no means absolutely none - not even one crumb. In fact, this is where our spring cleaning tradition stems from!  Jews literally clean every nook and cranny of their homes to make sure that every crumb can be found and removed!  While I tried to do this to some extent, I did not start early enough!  I am sure there were some rooms with crumbs of bread, but I did clean my pantry and cupboards well. I removed everything that I defined as leaven. At least I meant to, but we will get that! They also use special kitchen utensils this week so that nothing they use ever has touched leaven. Again, I did not go that far.

My definition of leaven and Jewish teaching is different, so keep that in mind. I am going with what the Bible says and celebrating under the freedom that Christ brings. As I already mentioned Jewish people want to make sure that not even one crumb remains in the home, but they also have added to these regulations to be sure that their bread is kosher for Passover. Instead of just removing the leaven they also make sure that only the best grains are used and from only the best fields, so not any unleavened product will do. Then the bread, in order to make sure it doesn't rise without leaven, must be prepared in an exact way under the supervision of a rabbi. It's interesting to learn about. We visited a Jewish Kids website to get many of our ideas for crafts and teaching and they have a video that explains the process in a way kids can understand. It's titled: Matzah: What's Up With It?

I was unable to find the special unleavened foods in my town, but I did find some regular matzah crackers and matso meal. These are kosher, but not for Passover. I allowed myself to make the rest of our unleavened bread and while I did it in under 18 minutes of prep time, I did bake it at a regular temperature so the entire process was longer. We made one homemade matzah cracker under the 18 minute requirement (but not with kosher for Passover ingredients) and it was good, but not as good as the store bought version. Gess and I both loved the Matzah crackers which were our favorite salty snack during this week!

It is also important to not only remove leaven from your home but also to have unleavened bread in your home because you have to actually eat unleavened bread every day.  The bible does say you must eat the bread. Remember the passage above. The last verse says:

Exodus 12:20 You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwelling places you shall eat unleavened bread."

Therefore, according to Jewish teaching there must be some unleavened bread eaten each day. I had a lot of fun with this actually. I will be sharing some great recipes at the end of this series. From my own unleavened bread recipe to matzo ball soup, I found eating unleavened bread a fun filled challenge for the week!

Other things I needed for this week were a Seder Plate and the specific items it requires, a Haggadah, a Matzo cloth cover, candles, 4 wine glasses, and the matzah crackers. I will share about each of these in the upcoming weeks.

With all my cleaning done and my items purchased we were finally ready for the Passover. To learn about this I relied on the two books in this photo. A Family Guide to Biblical Holidays and Celebrating Biblical Feasts.

While there is a lot to prepare I have to tell you that so much involvement had Gess more excited for this holiday then she had been for any other. We were studying the Easter story and when the leader mentioned that Jesus went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover Gess threw up her hands and did a big "YES!" I too was excited as this holiday, unlike our usual traditions, was new for us so had not become a routine. I am anxious to share the rest of the story, so be sure to check to back for more Passover Week topics.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Life of Fred Math - Finally Gess Loves Math!

As most of you know by now, Gess has Down syndrome. She is a bright girl, can read very well, has great problem solving skills, has a great interest in science, and has a great love for learning. Our struggle is with math. She gets the concepts of what we are doing and with helps can do her basic problems. At age 13 she can now tell time, count money, measure ingredients, add and subtract with objects, but she struggles with memorized facts and therefore can't do problems in her head.

Even with what she can do, math is still very difficult and therefore she doesn't like it. All during the school day she never complained, until it was time for math. "It's too hard" she would fret and for a child with special needs that is the truth. It's not hard the way we think of hard. Her mind simply doesn't work that way. Gess is not the type of kid who will complain and whine over every little thing, but math, for Gess, is extremely hard.

The memorization thing gets me because she is awesome when it comes to memorizing Scripture. She can memorize long passages and her list of known verses is longer than most adults I know!  She remembers rules and regulations. Once you tell her how to do something, she always does it that way. She also remembers things for a very long time, she will remember facts that happened years ago and bring them up as if they happened yesterday. However, when you throw numbers into the mix, she just freezes. With the helps of visuals we have gotten her doubles down but that doesn't carry over when the numbers are different. We can get all the facts down of one number, but when you mix the problems up she gets flustered.

So we moved on and allowed her to use helps and she does math fairly well, but she still didn't like it. It's also never been a subject she could do alone. Even with online curriculum she would need help. Then a friend told me about Life of Fred and I have to say, I am thrilled with the change.

You see Life of Fred doesn't teach math the way every other curriculum teaches math. They do it through stories. It is the story of a boy named Fred. This Fred is a very unique individual that makes the reader want to learn more about him. Fred is 5 years old and is the instructor of algebra at Kittens University in Kansas.

The story is so entertaining that I enjoy it too. Fred learns math while going about his day. While his day is anything but typical it shows how math is important in every day life. When you come to a math problem its part of the story so you don't really think about the fact that you are learning math. You are just enjoying it and happen to pick up information along the way! What is really cool is that you learn more than just math. They throw all kinds of fascinating information in there. There is music, reading, science, and health just to name a few of the other subjects you bump into.

Now when its time for math Gess doesn't cringe anymore, she gets excited!  She has wanted to do more than one lesson a day and absolutely loves these stories. She is also able to do some of this on her own and is even starting to pick up some of the math facts!  I thought I would never see that!
I have to admit I am not sure if we would have had this much success when Gess was younger. While she is 13 I started way back at book one because I didn't want her to miss anything. I am not sure if she would have picked it up so quickly if she wasn't able to read it herself. But so far, she is anxious to get to math each day because she can't wait to see what is happening with Fred.

So let me show you how Fred works and what makes it so great. Here is a page from Fred's story.

On the page above you will notice there is no math yet. Just Fred getting ready to go out in the cold, but wait, his nose is cold. He tries to figure out how to make it warm. If he takes off his glove and uses it, his nose is warm but his hand is cold. Next he tries his earmuffs and that works because Fred doesn't have any ears! Then they pause and see what Fred would look like with ears! Its cute and has you interested!  Then Fred goes back to his office at the university and there they talk about how many days of the week he has classes (learning time) and how many floors he climbed (learning ordinal numbers). Then he talks about his algebra lesson with his doll Kingie. Now, his doll never talks back, but Fred understands him! The lesson on the page is 3 ducks + 4 ducks = 7 ducks and they talk about how silly Fred's ducks look. Then Kingie draws his own paper and you see it again with better looking ducks. They just repeated the problem while focused on the picture in the problem, not the fact that you are staring at another problem! Genius!  Here is a page that shows some math during a story in a different chapter where Fred is cooking up bacon and eggs.

At the end of each chapter (which at his point is only a few pages long) you don't do math problems, it's "Your Turn To Play."

There are only a few problems covering what you learned. They will be repeated in many different ways throughout the book, but they won't be repeated all at once, drilling a student into submission. Gess looks at this amount of problems as doable. A math worksheet freaks her out! As she has become more familiar with the books she has been able to do many of these pages without help because the story has really done a great job at teaching the problem. Having her do math alone is a huge milestone for us!

She is also picking up her facts a little better. Because the facts happen in the story she is thinking of these numbers as something concrete. When she thinks of 5+2 she is remembering there are 5 weekdays and 2 days in the weekend making 7 days in a week. Man that helped!  For 5+4 she might think of butterflies or envision the vending machines lining the hall of the cafeteria in Kittens University. This added visual "experience" is helping her better retain her facts! Not without confusion, but now with reminders from the story the answers come. I  am hopeful that will improve with time. It is still better than any other thing we have tried.

Now I don't know if this works with kids with special needs who are very young because we didn't use it then. I don't know if they will pick it up so well before they can read, but I do know that if you try and the math doesn't take they will certainly enjoy the adventure and learn something!  Even as adults, my husband and I both enjoy this!  In fact, they have segments just for us grown ups!

I just love their sense of humor! Because there is so much more to learn besides just math, I recommend at least giving Life of Fred a whirl.  Start with book 1, Apples.

You won't be disappointed!  I just wish I had known about this sooner. Oh wait, the copyright is 2013, maybe it just didn't exist then!  I am just glad my daughter has stopped complaining that math is too hard and now jumps up and down when her math books come in the mail! After all our struggles with math that, to me, is a miracle!

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Passover Week Overview

This year as we are studying the Biblical Holidays which of course included the Passover. I really wish I could have kept up with blogging about it while we were celebrating it but there was so much to prepare and do that I just didn't have the time. I still want to share what we did and how we did it so next year I can pull these posts back out for both your sake and mine!

The Passover Week celebration had many elements. Each Friday I will post a specific blog for each one.  As they are completed the links below will work. For now just know they are coming. Check back every Friday for the next six weeks to learn more!

1. The Preparation - (Coming April 24) This required work a few weeks ahead of time. It basically was the task of removing unleavened bread from your home and what we learned in the process of the cleansing.

2.  Passover Crafts & Activities - (Coming May 1) We did two crafts, some fun pages, and watched some videos to help our daughter be a part of the celebration.

3. The Seder Plate - (Coming May 8) This covers what you need to put on your plate and what each component represents.

4.  The Passover Seder - (Coming May 15) This covers what we did during our ceremony and what we learned from it.

5. The Feast of Unleavened Bread - (Coming May 22) How our week went, what we did, how well we avoided leaven, what we learned, and tricks to make it fun.

6. Unleavened Bread & Passover Recipes - (Coming May 29) Here I share the recipes we used and the food we ate during this week.

Monday, April 13, 2015

I have neglicted my blog!

Oh my, I am having trouble blogging lately! It's not because I have nothing to write about, I actually have so many things that I want to share. It's just been a time issue. So please be gracious and understand. If I cant get myself back on track, I will be sharing about the Life of Fred math curriculum we are using, our Passover celebration, what unleavened recipes we used for our week without leaven, our field trip to the Fire Department and EMS, and more!  Please don't give up on me yet. Give me another week or so. I have so much going right now. I will make a commitment to write this week, so hopefully by next week I will back on schedule!!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

New Glasses!

I noticed that Gess was looking over her glasses a lot so I felt it was time to get them checked out. Her appointment went well and we found out the problem was not that they were getting too loose, as I had thought, but that her strong eye had actually improved and therefore it was easier for her to look over, rather than through her glasses!  Her other eye basically stayed the same, but its the weaker eye.

Now that Gess is 13 she is really starting to develop her own tastes so looking for glasses was a lot of fun. She looked at the shelf and suddenly discovered a pair of pink glasses and grabbed them hastily off the shelf. We laughed, but they were plastic and its hard to get a good fit for her sometimes, but these did look like they might work. We still had her try other pairs to which she stuck out her tongue at a few of them. Nope, she wasn't liking our picks at all!  She clung to her pink glasses and the optometrist agreed that we could get them to fit well, so we went with them. The day they came in Gess snatched her glasses off and practically threw them at the lady helping us trying to grab her news ones. We had to explain that we had to fit them to her first. After a few times of melding the ear pieces to sit snugly, we got a good fit. She loves them, and so do I! She has good taste!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Collage and Acrostic Art Projects

Since it is spring break here we decided to take a day to spend with some of our friends who go to public school. We had three friends over today and we decided to do some of the art that Tim did with us during Drama Therapy.

The collage was a hit by everyone. Even I enjoyed it!  You take a piece of paper and a bunch of magazines. Then find things you like or words that describe them or just anything you like about you. What do you like to do? What do you like about yourself? How do you feel? It's a great way to be expressive and the kids really got into it. I loved how the children went for words like beautiful, fun, creative, and bright future. Even the word lazy was in the context of "Sometimes I like to be lazy and relax." Don't we all? Here they are finding just the right words and pictures for their artwork.

This took up quite a bit of time and they chose to do this over video games. At least the girls did!  It led to some really great conversation too. Here are the final products.

Collage Art

Items Needed:
Construction Paper or Card Stock
Magazines to cut out pictures and words from

Cut out pictures and words that describe yourself and what you like. Glue them on to the paper any way you like. You can also cut the construction paper into shapes and make a collage on that.

The girls also made their clouds but went for a rainbow theme.

Here is the original rain cloud Gess made. She didn't want to make another one today.

Cloud Acrostic Art

Items Needed:
White construction paper or card stock
Colored or blue construction paper
Water color based paint (optional)

Cut the white construction paper into a cloud shape. If desired paint the cloud but it can be kept white as well.
Write your name in marker on the cloud.
Cut the rest of the construction paper into strips. Use a variety of colors if you want rainbow strips, or use just blue if you want rain.
Write one word that begins with each letter of your name that says something about yourself.
Glue those strips of paper underneath those letters in your name.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Drama Therapy

Have you ever heard of Drama Therapy? If not, you should. It is something that is starting to really take off. My son is actually in grad school getting his masters in Drama Therapy. When he entered the program it was new to me too, but I am excited about what it can do.

So far my son has worked with lots of kids with special needs, particularly many kids who are on the autism spectrum. Over spring break he came down and did a drama therapy session for my homeschool co-op. I was thrilled! While Gess is the only child in the group with special needs, drama therapy is a great way for any kid to learn. It enhances thinking skills, creativity, motor skills, reasoning and much more.

I can't really share many pictures but here are two that give you a small hint about how it works.  The leaders engage the children in all kinds of pretend scenarios then the fun begins.

During the art hour they brought crafts that helped the child to think about themselves. They could do two things, make a collage that described them or make a cloud with rainbow ribbons or rain. Gess made a rain cloud. On every ribbon you take a letter of your name and use it to find a word that tells us something about you. My son's Tim example was T - Theatre I - Imagination M - Music. Gess came up with G - Good at art E - earth S - Siesta S - Sister. (We are part of the Beth Moore Siesta Sister Memory Team.)

It was great to see my son work. Drama therapy has so many benefits. Seeing it action for this short session just only revealed a small aspect of it. We plan on having them back again in the fall. It is thrilling to watch the kids' imagination explode!


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