Tuesday, March 31

Passover Seder + Devil's Arithmetic

During Passover, families around the world sit together to tell the story of how the Jewish people were freed from slavery in Egypt.  At the seder, there is singing, questions, stories from the Torah, and even a hide and seek...
Jewish holidays begin at sunset with candle lighting.  As darkness fill the evening sky, burning candles spark brightness inside.  The candles' warm light stands for hope and freedom.  On the first night of Passover, an extra blessing is added to remember how special it is to celebrate a seder for the first time in a year - or even the first time ever.  ~PJ Library
Passover celebrates the exodus, the deliverance from slavery of the Hebrews in Egypt over 3,000 years ago. The holiday lasts for eight days, and begins with a special meal – the Seder. The story of the exodus is read from a book called Haggadah. Passover symbols are placed on the Seder plate in the middle of the dinner table.

In addition to the Seder plate, salt water, wine, and matzah are on the table. The matzah is broken, and the larger piece (called the afikoman) is wrapped up, set aside, and hidden. One lucky child will receive a surprise for finding it later!

Four glasses of wine (or juice) are an integral part of the meal. An extra goblet is put on the table for the prophet Elijah, a symbol of hope and faith. The youngest child present asks four questions to facilitate reciting the Exodus story.

For this unit, we are using The Devil's Arithmetic as our spine read.

Access the complete unit study in the Jewish Holidays in Literature Bundle!

Each of the ten unit studies in this year-long bundle centers around a book for middle school level and includes videos, cooking projects, hands-on activities, writing assignments, and more.  There are also resources for younger children in eight of the ten units (not in *).

  • Introduction to Judaism
  • Solomon and the Trees + Tu B’Shevat unit
  • The Queen of Persia + Purim unit study (sample)
  • Devil’s Arithmetic + Passover unit study
  • The Secret Shofar of Barcelona + Rosh Hashana unit study
  • The Yom Kippur Shortstop + Yom Kippur unit study
  • The Mysterious Guests + Sukkot unit study
  • All-of-a-Kind Family Hannukah + Chanukah unit study
  • Broken Strings + Fiddler on the Roof + Persecution unit study*
  • The Golem & the Jinni + Kabbalah unit*

Monday, March 30

Roadschool Trip to the Outer Banks

One of my favorite places in the world has always been the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  We frequented there as a family when I was a girl, and now have started escaping there with the boys...  There are plenty of inexpensive ways to enjoy OBX, as well as some unique opportunities!

Our beach trip is usually a short one, as hotels can be pricey in this area, but it's the most-anticipated trip of the year!  The first night commences with a seafood buffet, playing in the surf, and watching the sunset... 
Some years, it does nothing but rain during our short trip.  But we don't let it get us down!  
The first morning begins with a walk along the ocean before we head off to Kitty Hawk Kites.  Situated directly across from Jockey's Ridge State Park, it's three-story balcony provides a breath-taking view of the banks.  It also features lots of airplane and hang-gliding goodies...for your aviation enthusiast.  (This is about five miles from where the Wright Brothers first flew.)

Though it's not always open, we often do the climbing wall!  The boys took turns harnessing up and climbing to the top.  The oldest even tackled the challenging, upside-down portion!
If you've never been to Jockey's Ridge, you're missing a slice of heaven.  It's the largest sand dune, and provides ample opportunity to teach about erosion, wind direction, wind speed, and change.  After all, the 426 acres of Jockey’s Ridge have devoured a hotel, a miniature golf course, and homes!

When you're up on top of that big sand dune, if feels like you can touch God.  You can see far out to sea and to the other side of the Inter-coastal Waterway.  Such a sense of peace on a beautiful day!
Of course, this quickly gave way to playing and silliness!  We pretended to be crawling through the desert, looking for water.  We rolled down the hill and got sand in our underwear!  The youngest wasn't sure about the last one, and ended up sliding down the hill...and then running back up to do it all over again.

All that climbing and hiking works up an appetite, so we head to the Fudge Factory, home of some of the sweetest homemade fudge you'll ever taste.  The guy behind the counter was so sweet - he gave us a big discount so that we could each choose our own slab of fudge!  (Which mom insisted would last for the entire week...)
Back at the hotel for the second evening, we feast on leftovers from our buffet the night before.  We play along the surf and enjoy the beauty of nature.  Once, we found several of these horseshoe crabs that had been kicked up out of the ocean by recent storms.  The boys each found a complete exoskeleton of a crab (long deceased when we found them) which became their most prized souvenirs for the trip.
The next day, we head back to Jockey's Ridge for a hang-gliding lesson!  This takes half a day, but is so much fun...it's well worth it.  We took a class inside from the instructor, and then also took a hands-on class on top of the sand dune at Jockey's Ridge.  Another family was with us, and we all worked together.  We learned how to hook on, steer, and land safely.  The instructors were very knowledgeable and patient with the kids.
On this day, it was a drizzly and quite windy.  We weren't sure that we would be able to complete our lessons, but this beautiful double rainbow popped out to greet us, and the weather calmed down quickly.  After all, near the ocean, 'if you don't like the weather, just wait a minute!'

The big one was hooked from the get-go.  His fear was minor, and he was ready to go cliff diving after completing his first run...  Whoa, buddy!  (Perhaps it's a teenage boy thing?)

When the little one touched back down, I could tell from his face that he was forever changed.  While it's always been his dream to be a pilot, this was free-flying....and he had overcome an awesome fear! 

Virtually Hang-Glide on Jockey's Ridge!!!!!

Our Beach Baby
My son has this innate need to be near the ocean.  Like myself, you can see the calm wash over him as the waves crash in.  Unfortunately in this case, our home is in Oklahoma, but we try to take him to water as often as possible.  I am sure that within the next decade, he will have moved away to live by the beach...somewhere.  In the meantime, he maintains that the rolling waters of the Atlantic are his favorite.
We walked through the surf, talking about everything and nothing all at once, and having one of those moments that, in retrospect, you hope your child will remember with love.  He took the camera and wanted to commemorate the rising of the sun, a clean new day.  I cannot fully express to you just how much his demeanor changes when we are near water...but this was the most peaceful he had been in a very long time.
He also took this great photo of the waters rolling over the sand, the fishermen taking advantage of a beautiful morning, and the headline picture for this post (with the quote).  He has such an artist's heart!
What I've discovered at the beach is that peace is within me.  It doesn't matter where I am....yes, it's true, being here brings back many happy memories, but it doesn't change anything.  That sense of purpose and place can only come from my heart.  Being here with my children brings an even greater sense....the sense that I am exactly where I should be....staying home, dedicating my life to my children and family, and raising future husbands.  It's a nice feeling.
The last morning is a bittersweet one.  We've made lots of great memories and enjoyed a period of relaxation, but now it's time to leave.  It's also a day when we get up uber-early for the traditional sunrise walk...

The pictures don't do it justice, so you can watch the sun rise below in our short video.  We created it so that our son could visit the beach whenever he needed his fix.
The gulls and crabs became more active as the sun began to rise.  It's a calming feeling, watching the world come alive.
Welcome to your new day.  Make it a good one!