Saturday, May 23, 2015

Shavuot, Pentecost, & Feast of Weeks


All these names can get sort of confusing. What you need to know is that those 3 titles mean the same thing! 

“You shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks, that is, the first fruits of the wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year." Exodus 34:22

Feast of Weeks is, of course, our English term.
Shavuot is the Hebrew word for weeks.
Pentecost is the Greek term used in the New Testament, but it is the same holiday that is observed above. Pentecost literally means fiftieth for The Feast of Weeks was to occur 50 days after the Passover.

You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete sabbaths.‘You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh sabbath; then you shall present a new grain offering to the LORD. Lev 23:15-16

Christianity celebrates Pentecost Sunday as the day the disciples received the Holy Spirit but while this year Pentecost or Shavuot does happen to fall on a Sunday, that is not always the case. Shavuot is always 50 days from Passover and Passover always begins on the 15th of the month of Nisan.

So enough with the dates and the names, lets get what to this holiday is all about!

The counting began for us the day after Passover. Jews call this the counting of the omer. We used barley to count the 50 days but I confess we failed to do this daily. I often had to catch my calendar up!  Each day (when we remembered) we would say "Today is the ___ day of the Omer" and glue on one piece of barley. Others use a path up a mountain to celebrate the giving of the Torah and say a special blessing.


The Feast of Weeks was one of the 7 appointed observances of the Lord given to Moses.

"Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts of the Lord that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts." Lev 23:2

Leviticus 23:15-22 tells you about the Feast of Weeks but other than explaining what you are to sacrifice and commanding that you not work it doesn't really say what you must do to celebrate it. We do know that the disciples observed it for in Acts 2 they were in Jerusalem observing Pentecost when they received the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Jewish tradition has this day set aside as a day that commemorates the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. The focus will be on learning the 10 commandments and some will even stay up all night studying the Torah. 

What I find fascinating is the connection between the giving of the Ten Commandments and the giving of the Holy Spirit. Remember, when Moses came down from the mountain he found the people in rebellion against God worshiping a golden calf.  Moses called all those on Lord's side to stand with him and they slew those who rebelled. They lost about 3,000 men that day

And that day about three thousand men of the people fell. Exodus 32:28

Yet, on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit fell upon his people, Peter preached the gospel identifying Jesus as the Messiah. At the end about 3,000 people were saved.

So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. Acts 2:41.

As many souls that were lost in Exodus were restored at Pentecost!  What a beautiful restoration! So, while I don't see an exact command in Scripture to celebrate the giving on the Ten Commandments on this holiday, there is a connection I find compelling and I will start adding that into my celebration. We actually never celebrated the day of Pentecost at our church anyway, so even that is new to us.

Here are some resources that aided us in our celebration of the many facets of this special day.

The first is a great video from Buck Denver asks What's in the Bible. It explains what happened on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. Their web page What Is Pentecost has this video, the history of Pentecost and some coloring pages.


To learn about the Ten Commandments we decided to read them from Scripture and watch a movie. I think Gess chose Prince of Egypt, but I might put in the original Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston myself!

I would recommend memorizing them. We have done that already so we simply reviewed them. I shared how we went about Learning the Ten Commandments a few years ago. We used these visuals from Living Waters.


My church also taught them with motions. Here is Gess doing them!


A fun song Gess has on her Go Fish Guys DVD Superstar is The Ten Commandment Boogie.

Another Jewish tradition is to read the book of Ruth during the holiday. The Feast of Weeks is also the Feast of Firstfruits and that is when the Barley is harvested. The book of Ruth certainly takes place during that time!  The fact that it was a beautiful picture of redemption gives it yet another connection to our redeemer and the gift we received from him on Pentecost!  We read that this morning.

This is our first year celebrating Pentecost but it certainly won't be our last!  I look forward to finding new ways to celebrate in the years to come.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Piano Recital Number 3

It was Gess' third year at piano and her recital was last weekend. She enjoys playing and does fairly well. Her biggest challenge is the rhythm of the song. She knows where the notes are but doesn't necessarily hold them the right amount. Her teacher works well with her and I am glad for the experience. Reading music is a great thing to learn!


Here was one of her songs: Spaceship to Mars

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Down Side of Down Syndrome

On Friday May 8th at 2:00pm Clara Dey was laid to rest. She was a 15 month old darling little girl who lost her struggle with Down syndrome. While I love to share the up side of Down syndrome and all the accomplishments that our kids can make, there is a down side to it.

The medical problems that arise from that extra chromosome are many and sometimes they cause a life to end before it really even starts. Clara spent a huge portion of her life in a hospital room yet her smile was one of the most incredible things you could ever see. Her resilience was amazing and those who knew her will be forever touched.

Down syndrome is about much more than learning difficulties. There are medical complications as well, sometimes serious ones. Their yearly check ups always bring about a sense of anxiousness even when you know all is well. While Gess' heart repair went smoothly and she is now healthy and strong you can't forget that things like Leukemia and Alzheimer's disease are common in persons with DS and can pop up later in life. You just never know what the doctor might say.

In fact, when Gess was born and in the NICU for 5 1/2 weeks the tears I shed were not over her mental struggles but her physical ones. Hearing my daughter was going to have open heart surgery was truly frightening. We were blessed that it went perfectly, with no complications. While more often that not that is the case, sometimes things don't go that way. Sometimes, after months of struggle, you are forced to say goodbye to the child you love with all your being.

I can't even fathom the deep loss that the parents are going through. They seem to have a deep faith and are strong, but I know that this road will be long and hard. Please pray for them. Also pray for other families around the world suffering the same kind of loss and hardship.

These events have led me to not post on my blog all week. I just couldn't bring myself to write anything. One Sunday I finally had the privilege of meeting Clara for the first time and holding her in my arms. The next Sunday she passed away. There was no way I could write.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Passover Crafts & Activities

Our celebration of the Passover led us to look for some activities for Gess to do to help her learn about the holiday. I found Chabad.org had a site for kids called the Jewish Kids Club. There you can find lots of visuals, videos, and craft ideas.

The Passover Holiday page has lots of great information. Of course this is solely from a Jewish perspective but it really helps to get a feel for how it has always been done. We did two of their crafts, colored some printable pages, and used one kid friendly recipe.

I really had trouble finding many of the things I needed for our Seder meal, including a matzah cover. Their Matzah Cover Craft was a great idea! Now I didn't need to buy anything. We used our own stencils and materials, but the idea came from them. We ended up doing the stenciling just like we did our Challah Cloth.


Next I found a video teaching the kids to make an Afikoman Bag. I had no idea what that even was! You see during the Passover meal you break a piece of Matzah in half and hide one side of it. The Afikoman bag is something to keep that in. Traditionally children look for it later and turn it in for a prize. Since Easter was two days after Passover, we had Gess wait until Easter morning to hunt for it. That's so much better than eggs!  She turned it in for a chocolate cross!


For some reason I can't get their videos to embed here, but do click on the Afikoman Bag Craft link and check it out. It was a lot of fun!


Next was some cooking from their Kids in the Kitchen page. It only took 3 ingredients to make the charoset but boy was it yummy!  Charoset is used on the Seder Plate to represent the bricks and mortar they were forced to make while slaves in Egypt. We used Pecans rather than Walnuts simply because we had some and we used red grape juice rather than wine. You can see it on our Seder Plate below.


I hope you enjoyed these craft ideas and consider using them the next time you celebrate the Passover!  You can read more about what we did during the Passover at my Passover Week page.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

EMS and Fire Safety Field Trip

This month our co-op visited the Fire Station where both firefighters and EMTs where there to take us on a tour of their facilities and vehicles to teach us some basic safety tips.  It was so much fun!  Gess had the honor the of being the one to try on the fireman's suit.


Everyone also loves to sit in the drivers seat of the Fire Truck.


Of course these things can also be noisy!


Seeing all of these were cool but we learned some important things.

Fire Safety Tips

1. Call 9-1-1 in case of an emergency

2. Stop, Drop, & Roll - This is the procedure you use when you or your clothes are on fire.
     Stop running frantically fueling the flame.
     Drop to the ground
     Roll around to put out the flame. Don't forget to cover your eyes!

3. Crawl to leave a building on fire, don't walk. Smoke rises so be sure to stay down low.

4. Check doorways before passing through. First look to see if you see smoke going through. Then touch it carefully with the back of your hand to see if the door if is hot. If it doesn't feel hot carefully check the door knob to see if it is hot. If there is no smoke and the door and knob are not hot, open carefully to see if its safe.

5. Have a fire safety plan - Make sure you know how to get out of your home in case of a fire! Have an exit route and a designated place to meet once outside.

6. Have regular fire drills! This is where we got into trouble. The kids admitted we don't do that much at home. We have now picked a date where once a month we will hold a firedrill. It's important, even in a homeschool!

I am sure there were many other things we learned, but that's what I remember the most.

The EMS was fun too, but I didn't get many pictures of it. We learned some safety tips there as well. They talked about ways to be safe and avoid injury and what to do when you get hurt. They also showed the kids what they might do if you were injured. They got to see the oxygen mask and we even had one child strapped on a board that they would use. One thing that the EMT said that I thought was really cool was about needles. Sometimes they need to use needles to help and needles hurt. She then said that needles were called needles because sometimes we just need them!

All in all it was a great field trip. The staff was great with the kids and made them feel safe. Gess, however has no desire to be a fireman. She told me that suit was too heavy! I don't think the EMTs impressed her much either. She left wanting to be a police officer and we didn't visit with any of them!


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!

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