Friday, March 22, 2013

Review: My Bar Mitzvah Tutors

I can't believe that in 13 months Ben and Shira will have their Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony and will be officially teens.  How did this happen?  Just over thirteen years ago, I was single, living in South Africa and never for a moment thought I'd be the mom to the world's most marvelous twins and planning a Bar Mitzvah.

At the start of this school year, the kids started their Bar/Bat Mitzvah prep with an online Hebrew school, My Bar Mitzvah Tutors, and we could not be happier with our choice to skip the local Hebrew schools and go with Dani from My Bar Mitzvah Tutors.  

The kids adore their classes with Dani.  She's one of those rare adults who brings an energy of child-like wonder to her classes whilst still imparting serious information. 

I love listening to my kids' classes with her.  I hear excited voices, laughter and joy.  What better way to learn about your heritage?  I hear so many children and parents complain bitterly about their children's Hebrew schools and I keep on asking why they continue with those schools?  The answers are always, "Because that's what our parents did and that's what our community does!"

People, it's time to break out of the molds.  If the local Hebrew schools are not offering you what you want, don't use them!  I highly recommend Dani and her crew of tutors for Hebrew school.  You don't have to worry about discipline problems because it's just Dani and your kid/s.  There is no wasted time because Dani teaches at your child's speed. It doesn't matter if your child learns quickly or slowly, the class progresses at your child's speed.

Dani is sneaky about testing the children's information retention.  Instead of giving them tests, she plays "Jewpardy" with the kids.  Ben and Shira just love playing this game (I think it is because it brings out the competitive spirit in them)

As a homeschooling mom, I really appreciate the homework that Dani gives the kids. It does not involve pages and pages of worksheets, instead, she asks the kids to answer questions that require thought and understanding of the material.

Over the years I have homeschooled my children, I've looked at many programs for teaching Hebrew. I have to say that the program that Dani and her sister developed is the best I have  yet seen. 

She starts off teaching a few Hebrew letters and their sounds. Then the children are given a story to read (a funny story about a boy and a dragon) where the newly learned Hebrew letters replace the English sounds they represent.  This allows the children to practice the Hebrew while reading a language  they've mastered.  It made the entire process of learning a new alphabet completely painless.

As a family, we thoroughly appreciate Dani's weekly D'var Torah that she offers in both audio podcast and written form.

If you are on the fence about putting your kids in a brick and mortar Hebrew school, give My Bar Mitzvah Tutors a try.  You can schedule Hebrew school to fit your schedule.  You don't have to schlep the kids during rush hour and then wait two hours for them to finish, because the class happens in your home at a time convenient to you.  Your child doesn't have to spend years and years in Hebrew school because with one-on-one tutoring, learning happens much, much faster.  Instead of bad memories of wasted time in Hebrew school, your child will have joyful memories of learning with a teacher who is passionate about her subject and who imparts that passion with every lesson.

One of the best things, to me, about using My Bar Mitzvah Tutors is that they help you plan your Bar Mitzvah ceremony.  We're going to be doing ours in Israel and the good folks are going to help us plan the entire trip. I'm always happy to elicit help from people who have done this many times before.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Homeschooling Your Gifted Child - Links for my talk at the 2013 VA Homeschoolers' Conference

In an attempt to save trees and to make it easier to use links, I am posting my speaker's notes here on my blog.  If you have questions, please contact me through the email link on this page

I highly recommend Dr. J.D. Ball from EVMS for neuropsychological testing.  He understands the challenges of testing gifted children and is very accepting of homeschooling.  He may be able to recommend neuropsychologists in other areas of Virginia.  This testing is expensive and most insurances don't pay for it, however, if you suspect learning disabilities, this is the type of testing you need to do.

To have relatively inexpensive testing done that just tells you if your child is gifted or not, I recommend you do the testing through the Johns Hopkins CTY program.  Here is an overview of the tests they offer.

Talented and Gifted Course and Curriculum offerings
Email me if you have any programs you like that aren't on this list, and I'll add them.

  1. Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth - online programs and summer schools
  2. William & Mary: Center for Gifted Education - Saturday and summer school
  3. Center for Talent Development - NorthWestern University
  4. Duke TIP
  5. Stanford's EPGY 
  6. SIG at Princeton
  7. The Davidson Institute - programs and support for children and families with profoundly gifted children
  8. Splash and Spark at MIT 
  9. Splash programs around the country
  10. The Lukeion Project - academically rigorous programs in Latin, Greek and the Classics for children working at high school level
  11. Online G3 - accelerated and engaging online humanities humanities courses for gifted children
  12. Athena's Advanced Academy - age appropriate activities with high level content for gifted children
  13. Royal Fireworks Press - the world's largest publisher of books for gifted children
  14. Michael Clay Thompson - a language arts program specifically designed for the gifted child
  15. Shelagh Gallagher - problem-based, learning units
  16. Dr. Dave Purvis  - science teaching manuals
  17. Problemoids Math Challenge
  18. The Art of Problem Solving - math textbooks and online classes
  19. List of online math classes for gifted children
  20. Coursera - free online college level classes
  21. Udacity - free online college level classes
  22. eIMACS  - online, interactive math and science classes
  23. ChemWOOT - Chemistry worldwide online olympiad training
  24. Galileo Education
  25. Moving Beyond the Page - Literature-based curriculum for gifted children (however, look at this program before you buy because I've heard of more than one instance where the grade level is too low for GT children)
  26. eGifted - online classes for gifted children
  27. The VHS Collaborative - online classes for gifted middle schoolers
  28. Stanford's Online High School

Finding Support 
  1. Hoagies' Gifted Education Page
  2. The TAG Project - home of TAGMAX, an e-list for parents of gifted homeschoolers
  3. Yahoo Groups for gifted homeschoolers
Storytellers to whom we loved to listen
  1. Jim Weiss - storyteller for the thinking family and favorite of homeschoolers everywhere
  2. Bobby Norfolk - Emmy award winner teller of folktales
  3. Diane Ferlatte - her retelling of Aesop's fables is simply marvelous
  4. Jay O'Callahan - he provides educator notes and ideas to go along with his stories
  5. Odds Bodkin - he has some great stories for your dinosaur lover (and plenty more besides)
  6. Willy Claflin - his crazy Maynard Moose had my kids rolling on the floor
  7. Morris Gleitzman - very funny Australian who reads his own books. We purchased his books from
  8. Geoffrey T. Williams - my son adored his stories about jet planes, the solar system, the barrier reef and more
  9. Robert Munsch - he offers free downloads of him telling all his stories.  Have your beginning reader read along as Mr Munsch tells his stories.  They are a scream, young and old will enjoy them.
Sources for Audiobooks
  1. Full Cast Audio - everything by this recording studio is absolutely delightful.  Their recordings of Bruce Coville's books are a knee-slapping, belly-laughing pleasure to listen to
  2. - this is now my primary source for audiobooks.  I particularly like that if you don't like a book you've purchased from them, you can return it for a full refund, up to a year after you purchased it.
  3. Most local libraries offer CDs or MP3's you can borrow.
  4. Naxos Audiobooks - great renditions of junior classics, mythology and Shakespeare
Streaming video
  1. Netflix
  2. Hulu
  3. Top Documentary Films
  4. YouTube
  5. Discovery Education Streaming - look at The Homeschool Buyers Co-op for a deal on this.
Language Arts programs we've used
  1. Our experience with Shurley English.  My updated comment is that I believe this is a spectacular program, but only for one year. It is too repetitive for a GT child to remain interested in it for more than one year.  
  2. Some thoughts on Michael Clay Thompson's LA program - I love his vocabulary and writing program, hate his grammar program (that's primarily because I do not have a good enough grounding in grammar and find he expects the teacher to have a strong grammar background)
  3. My children are currently studying grammar and diagramming with Regan Barr at The Lukeion Project.   I highly recommend their very rigorous Barbarian Diagrammarian course
  4. My kids are doing The Witty Wordsmith with Lukeion this fall. I expect great things from the course (based on our previous experience with Luekeion)
  5. I highly recommend  Membean for vocabulary development for GT children 6th grade and up.  You can read my review over at the VA Homeschoolers' website.
I only have experience with two history programs. My kids started off with The Story of the World in first grade and I hated it, not because the information was bad, but because I hated having to prep for all the activities. We switched to  History at Our House  in 2nd grade and haven't looked back.  Scott Powell is the perfect teacher for gifted children as he helps train them to make connections and has high expectations of them.  You can find a review I wrote a few years ago here (my review is on the last page and I used the name, "Shez")