Friday, April 30, 2010

a better time was had by all

so today i asked chana when she wanted to do chumash. she surprised me by saying after she eats her macaroni (for breakfast). i figured she'd want to do it after chemistry class. after she ate, i noticed she had 8 minutes left to the show she was watching so i asked her if she wanted to finish it up. she did.

at which point elazar begged for chumash. so i said ok. and chana said, hey, it's MY turn for chumash and they begin kind of bickering over who gets to do chumash. i said elazar first and i showed him some shins since he seemed to distinguish those last time, and then i pointed to sounds and had him repeat, then pointed to words and had him repeat. i really think i ought to learn trup because he tends to know all the words of songs and it could be a good thing for him down the road if we trup the pesukim. after a pasuk, it was chana's turn.

i took a new white board and made a wiggly line that branched into 4 wiggly lines. i said "this is the nahar. it parad into 4 roshim." (i actually said the whole thing in hebrew). and i pantomimed with my hands. and she said, "split?" yup. then she reviewed the whole white board from yesterday. i asked her who was the "he split" and "he was 4 heads." she thought it was hashem but when i said it was the nahar, she saw that.

then we did the 3 words of the half of the next pasuk. zip. the next part is tough because i don't know one of the words. should i just look it up and tell her? because she is so resistant to the dictionary? i wonder what will happen.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

sometimes all the conditions are perfect except...

if you have to choose who is in the pissy mood and who isn't, who would you choose? mommy or student?

obviously, it depends on what you are doing. but there is a general truisim: "mommy ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." when mom is run down, exhausted, cranky, and overwhelmed, then the whole house is unhappy. conversely, when mom is well rested and at the top of her game, all the tantrumming in the world is going to be handled optimally.


if you are trying to get learning done, what is your choice? choice a: an eager chana, with a crying jack, and a destructive attacking elazar. choice b: elazar on a playdate, jack asleep, and chana being pulled away from something she's in the middle of doing?

i was in a good place. chana tantrummed through the entire half pasuk. there is one new word. first, she reviewed the white board (unasked) and complained that עדן from yesterday is in hebrew, and it's throwing her off. then she complained she doesn't know the new word. then she translated the rest (interspersed with crying and whining, like how is she supposed to know that היה means "HE was" and when i went to show her r' winder, said "it's NOT just the shoresh, there is a vav!" [והיה] and i'm internally rolling my eyes because she knows vav is a prefix and not one of the you/he/she/they prefixes or suffixes), and guessed at פרד and shrieked like a banshee when she didn't get it right. i drew a picture of it splitting off into 4 tributaries and she shrieked that she has NO idea what that is and she wants to stop and it's too much and too hard and i should just tell her.

i raised my hand and waited for her to ask me what and said the screaming is bothering me and can she please speak in a nicer tone and she fell on me crying that it's too much and too hard.

this is all because she was in the middle of doing something else.

on the up side, i reacted beautifully to all this because i had nothing else going on. BUT it takes 10x as long to do something when she doesn't want to do it. i finally packed it up and we'll leave it for tomorrow. (i peeked, and tomorrow's half is tiny and easy)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


ps as i write the previous post, chana is calculating how much money she will earn for hebrew reading...

alfie: rewards make ppl less interested in what they are doing

study 1:
subjects were asked to work on a puzzle. half were offered money, half were not offered money. subjects were told it would be a few minutes until the next phase got started. subjects were left alone in the room with the puzzle. (secretly, that was the next phase. would they play with the puzzle or do something else?)
those who were paid spent less time working on the puzzle (while supposedly waiting for the experiment to start) than those who were not paid.

study 2:
teachers used rewards to induce children to play with educational games. they did.
when rewards were no longer available, those kids avoided those games. in classrooms where no rewards were given, children eagerly played with those games (as well as others).

study 3:
kids could draw with magic markers. half would recieve a certificate w/ gold star for drawings.
1 wk later, receivers of certificate were less interested in markers than other students. AND less interested than they had been at the beginning.

study 4:
half of kids were told that in order to color with felt-tip pens, thye had to spend some time drawing with crayons. other half were told the reverse.
a few weeks later, whichever one was the prerequisite was the one the kids were less interested in doing.

other studies are in footnotes.

logical basis:

1) do "this" and you'll get "that" devalues the "this" in the person's mind. it is like telling the person that the activity is not worth doing for its own sake.

2) rewards are usually perceived as controlling, and people do not view favorably activities where autonomy has been diminished. the more discretion and choice we have about our activities and how we do them, the happier we are.

he cites studies that anytime we are encouraged to focus on how well we are doing something (instead of concentrating on the process of doing it), it is less likely that we will enjoy the activity and less likely we would keep doing it if given a choice.

What about:

temporary rewards. reward them until they learn how to read, eg, and then they'll enjoy the intrinsic motivation of the books they read.

this is particularly tempting to me. why not reward to get over the hump of vocabulary memorization, drill work, etc.

i began reading this book with the firm belief that rewarding for these kind of things is a good thing.

after reading, i am wondering. it seems that alfie is suggesting that once you present rewards, you are not simply adding 2 types of motivation to the child, and the more motivation, the better. it appears that offering extrinsic rewards inherently diminishes intrinsic motivation. the child perceives that the thing you are rewarding for is not good for its own sake, and it shifts the whole view and feelings towards the activity. these are subtle and long term effects.

alfie makes the point: teachers say, "if i don't say this will be on the test, they won't learn it." managers say the job won't be done right unless there is a bonus. he suggests that these are not signs that rewards are necessary; they are signs that something is wrong with the way the workplace or classroom is set up or with what people are being asked to do or how.

i am beginning to question the long-term relationship that the child has with the knowledge they are rewarded for attaining. is my goal for my child to amass a body of knowledge or information? many people will say yes. this may not be their end goal, but they certainly want their children educated with plenty of information under their belts as a prerequisite to true learning.

my personal decision (and that's one of the things i adore about homeschool--i get to do exactly what i want and everyone else can do exactly what they want and everyone can happily disagree with everyone), based on my personal relationship to the large quantities of information that are in my head lo lishma, is that i am beginning to lean towards a more autonomous, self-directed approach that draws on the intrinsic motivation of the child. alfie makes a case that this fosters the best long-term pleasant relationship with the material.

originally, i thought: kids don't like learning vocabulary. they don't like translation. so why not just reward them to do it? i would say to chana (and sarah before her): i know you don't like this. i want you to have the skills in case you want to learn torah when you are older.

after reading alfie, i wonder if i am short-changing them. there are simple pleasures in translating correctly. making strides in knowledge is enjoyable. am i making it less enjoyable by changing their perception of it into something that needs to be done, needs to be gotten through?
chana does seem to enjoy our time with the white board and the pictures and the translations.

alfie cites a study that "rewards were no more effective in increasing the motivation of children whose initial level of interest was low than were simple requests to work on the tasks"!!

he further makes the point that before introducing a reward, it would be more productive to simply ask the person why he or she is bored. maybe it's too easy or too hard, etc. and to adjust the task. he says that giving a reward undermines the possibility that the person will find themselves intrinsically motivated at some later point.

this seems a direct contradiction to the chazal "מתוך שלא לשמה בא לשמה" a person should always engage in torah not for its own sake, since this leads to doing it for its own sake.

despite alfie's logic, i am not willing to discount chazal and would like to understand what chazal mean and why, despite alfie's solid points, they maintain this.

movin right along

the easy days are over. (i didn't write yesterday. she blasted through the pasuk, no prob. did the whole thing). 2 new words today. chana is firm in her insistence against the dictionary. נהר was easy by drawing a river (ocean? lake? pool?). and להשקות she isolated the shoresh ש.ק.ה
i had high hopes she'd make recourse to the milon, but no. she read it in context and had trouble figuring it out. so next to the river i had drawn on the bottom, i drew a garden (and she stuck in 2 trees, one the עץ החיים and the one of knowing good and bad (with 'good' fruit and 'bad' fruit--interesting)). then i asked her what she thought that river would do. (dry? turn into rain?). finally she figured it out. (water it!). i told her a drink is a משקה. not sure if that registered.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

2 uneventful days

yesterday went so smoothly and the second half was so easy i wanted to do it in the evening. but i fell asleep. just did it this morning and it was easy-breezy. chana did not remember יצר even though i showed it to her in the previous pasuk. she did, however, remember that she thought it was יצא. tomorrow's pasuk is easy. looking forward.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


so i figured chana would tell me she just wants me to rewrite it. which she sort of did, but i felt like she might have been joking, so i just smiled and waited. and she did it very interestingly.

first, she recited the last phrase we did: "and he breathed in his nose." she did that from memory. then she looked at the pasuk and remembered what it was: "and hashem created adam." i was pretty impressed that she remembered that when that was all the way back last week.

she didn't remember the middle phrase, but i pointed to מן האדמה which she translated easily, and then she remembered that it was... dirt? i wrote dust. pretty close. then she said, "and hashem created adam from dust?" yep. good, she's putting together the puzzle. it's great how the white board keeps track of everything.

then we went on to the next part. i knew it would be tricky. it was "nishmas chayim." first, for chayim, i did the pantomime i always do. i said "maves" and collapsed, then perked up and said "chayim." she knew that was alive. i wrote that down. then i knew there was no way she would remember that the suffix תmeans "... of." i wrote down

and made two arrows. one said "נשמה" and the arrow from the ת said "של"

then i wanted her to look up neshama, which was obviously too much. so i opened it to the page, and she spent quite a while looking in the column i pointed out, missing it the first time. i reminded myself of all the skills it takes to look something up while she did this. finally she found it and saw it was soul. and she said "soul of alive??" so i said that actually it was a noun, life. so i changed "alive" to "life."

after those 2 words (which were quite a workout) she wanted to stop. i knew she would. she said we hit the asnachta, so that was half of the pasuk. i said she did only 2 words, and could she do the rest of the line like she had been doing?

as i asked this, i wondered if i should have stopped. after all, she had to reconstruct the previous work (after which she requested to stop, but i gently urged her to continue because i sensed that she felt that she hadn't actually done chumash and would be receptive to doing a new piece). and now she wanted to stop again, and looking up a word is draining for her. but i asked, and i didn't have investment in the outcome. i figured if she wanted to stop, i would. but she agreed to do more (and i knew that she knew all of the words left on the line: "and adam was").

actually, at this point i should note that there has been nice progress. the word "ויהי" which used to be a challenge for her, even though she knew the word היה, and which showed up SO many times during creation (and each time i wondered to myself why if it's showing up so much she doesn't know it) , she actually has grasped. i guess if it shows up enough times, she will learn it. naturally and painlessly.

the next phrase, "nefesh chaya" (which by the way was on the next line, but chana zipped right into it because it was only 2 words til the end of the pasuk) i did the pantomime of dead and alive. and nefesh was actually a word she had looked up and written in her personal dictionary, back in the day when she was writing all the new words. i admit that a small part of me hoped that she would see how fabulous it was to have the word in her own personal dictionary, and she'd be motivated to continue. but i also knew that was unlikely. i showed it to her, and she used it, but wasn't thusly motivated.

she had trouble untangling the phrase. nefesh chaya. part that is alive alive. i said like the spirit. she said, "i thought there were no such thing as spirits." (i guess she meant ghosts?). i said the part of us that makes us alive.

then, with no prompting whatsoever, she looked at everything we had written down on the white board so that she could get a sense of the pasuk as a whole. as she started, she adjured me to please not get involved and not interrupt her and to let her read and review it her own way. she read it and understood it. it was lovely.

on a sidenote, i read an article today about the silberman method (though the article was vague about what exactly is the method). one part that was intriguing to me was a) they do the pasuk with trup (i don't know how to lain) and b) somehow, over the course of reading, translating, and reviewing, they read the pasuk over 20x. this causes familiarity with the hebrew.

i would like to know more about this.

minor setback ;)

elazar erased the whiteboard! i will have to ask chana how she wants to handle it.

Friday, April 23, 2010

good props are so important

loving the white board. because chana can do very small segments every day (currently we are doing about 1 line a day, since the pasuk is large) and just refer back to the board to see what the previous phrase or phrases mean. also, when elazar steals her purse and throws it behind the couch and she goes haring off after it (even numerous times), it's all laid out there on the board and she can easily pick up right where she left off.

chana has been able to mostly guess the words she doesn't know from context. as much as this bothers me a bit because i wish she would learn new vocabulary, and i suspect she's not processing these new words at all, i tend to think she wouldn't be learning much new vocabulary the 2 other ways i would do it:
1) writing it down in a notebook. i doubt she would learn it better that way, and it breeds resentment, as she finds the whole process of writing in the notebook and looking it up to be long and difficult and unecessary.
2) review. i could have her just review and review the new words. i did not do this with sarah, and her vocabulary ended up being adequate, though not spectacular. she very much doesn't want to review, so probably this would breed more conflict and reluctance (haha, unless i bribed her for it, but i have not noticed her personality responding overmuch to incentives like that). hopefully the words that come up over and over will become familiar, and if not, she is gaining confidence by guessing via context. and today, she couldn't guess so she looked up a word.

she correctly got the "and he" and the פח of the shoresh. a quick glance at onkelos showed that the beginning was a נ. she could not guess from context, and i had her look it up. she did this reluctantly. i opened to the נ section of the dictionary for her. and helped her find it. because it is still overwelming.

chana is curious how hashem breathes into someone's nose.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

short and sweet

we used onkelos again! she read it and didn't recognize anana with the aleph at the end, but once i wrote ענן with vowels, she figured it out. it was such a short half I thought we could do the second half, but she didn't want to. and in the spirit of keeping things manageable and pleasant, i acquiesed rather than pushed.

the white board continues to be fantastic. she read it over at the end, and it made sense.

Monday, April 19, 2010

chugga chugga

another successful evening with the white board! i kept yesterday's white board intact, and took out a new one for today. she did it easily. found the shoresh of the one new word (himtir) (had some trouble that the ה means "to make happen" but i know this shows up often so she'll get it eventually). translated smoothly and then had no desire to see what it meant as a whole.

i cajoled her, so she read the board a couple of times until she figured it out. she didn't want to see what the first half had to do with the second half. but i asked her, and she reviewed yesterday's english, which was right there, and then went smoothly to the second half, and then summarized.

i did not have her look up "matar" in the dictionary (which she thought was "to let," like mutar, which was a good association. i wrote מתר and מטר down one underneath the other, and in classic 8 yr old obnoxiousness she said they look the same. i circled the tes and the taf) and told her i would draw it for her. i had the white board right there, after all. i drew a cloud and raindrops and she got it immediately.


Sunday, April 18, 2010


elazar just asked to do chumash. i took out the chumash and started to tell him what the letters were. he kept insisting everything is "e." he said the "shin" looks like a fire. i had to tear him away because it is bedtime.


the white board is working great! one hr ago i was about to write:

"too darn tired to think about chumash tonight. fretful baby and clingy toddler. forget it. try tomorrow."

but jack went to sleep and ari was around to distract elazar for 10 minutes, so chana and i hit the book.

so our new process (note how it has changed from even last month, based on her input) is currently: no writing things in her own dictionary. looking up to be haggled over (and acc to chana, done as infrequently as possible). i will write down in english as we go on the white board, for her to refer to as needed in order to keep the thread of the pasuk.

i glanced at the pasuk first, to see how it would go.
וְכֹל שִׂיחַ הַשָּׂדֶה טֶרֶם יִהְיֶה בָאָרֶץ וְכָל-עֵשֶׂב הַשָּׂדֶה טֶרֶם יִצְמָח
i saw three words she doesn't know. i warned her about it. she said she'd rather do double chumash tomorrow. i said double tomorrow means looking up all 3 words and translating the 1/2. looking up 3 words in one day is apparently too much, so she agreed.

(now secretly, i'm telling you that i myself was not sure what the pshat of this pasuk was. i don't even remember this pasuk at all. was this talking about what happened already? what was going to happen? so i peeked at the english. teacher's prerogative: trying to teach a student how to translate while ironically needing the english to make sure she doesn't teach it wrong...)

so chana translated "and all" beautifully, not missing a beat with the chaf and immediately saying "v'kol" after "v'chol."

siach she had no idea and i wrote it on the board in a different color:

And all שיח

it turns out she doesn't know the word "sadeh." who knew that i never use the word field? i just told her what it was, and she said, "is that because otherwise there will be FOUR words i don't know?" yup.

i wrote sadeh in hebrew and then parentheses (field).

the next word terem she didn't know, and i wrote it in pink and then in parentheses wrote (לפני).

wouldn't you know, יהיה gave her a ton of trouble. i used it in a sentence, still she had trouble. finally i wrote it on a 2nd white board (always good to have a bunch--i happen to have 4 student sized white boards and 1 larger one) and asked her to find the shoresh and then r' winder for the yud prefix.

then she pretty easily translated "and all grass the field before it will צמח"

she forgot "before" but i pointed to the white board and there it was. yay!

then i asked her to read it as a whole to get the feel of the whole thing. i introduced her to onkelos, telling her that he was a convert who wanted to be jewish who was closely related to the king (i think he was the nephew, but i can't remember) and the king sent soldiers to bring him home him, and twice he talked them into converting. chana liked that. i told her that he wrote a translation of the chumash, and showed her the word "אילני" and asked her if she knew what ilana means. she knew it was a girl's name, so she was intrigued. i told her it was עץ. so on top of שיח i wrote (ilan--etz) (forgive the english; i'm getting lazy. i wrote it in hebrew; i'm just sick of alt shifting back and forth).

then it said "and all tree the field"
so i made a little blank space and asked her what was missing:
and all tree __ the field
and she said "in" which i wrote in (haha)

so now it said and all שיח
(עץ--אילן ) _in_ the שדה (field) טרם
(לפני) it will be in the land
and all grass _in_ the field before it will צמח

hmmm... looking back, i should have put sadeh in pink, too. oh, well.

anyway, i had chana review it, and asked her to guess what tzamach meant. and she lifted her arms like a plant sprouting and said "grow." and i said "right" and put it on the board.

and all שיח
(עץ--אילן ) _in_ the שדה (field) טרם
(לפני) it will be in the land
and all grass _in_ the field before it will צמח --grow!

please take note: she didn't look up one thing in the dictionary.

Friday, April 16, 2010

dictionary skills

btw, as lovely as the "milon" idea was for sarah, that's as unlovely as it is for chana. she is not interested in making her own dictionary at all (sarah was enamored of the idea). she said she doesn't mind writing the words and definitions down, but she hates looking it up. i said, if i'm not around, and you don't know the word, which is more important--that you can write it down or that you can look it up?

obviously she said it is more important to write it down. groan.

anyway, i have to give some thought about the dictionary skills. as far as i know, most people in the world are reasonably competent with a dictionary without having been forced to do it at a young age.. or was everyone forced to do it and this caused the competence? nah, that's illogical.


so today i went in with the whiteboard. chana was hungry, and i ought to know better. a fed kid is a less easily frustrated student. but as usual, the temptation to do chumash while she agreed was too great. jack was sleeping but elazar didn't like what was on tv, wanted to color, colored on chana's whiteboard, and on chana, and on the chumash... (i finally took the markers away, and then he had nothing to do but stand on the chumash..)

so the whiteboard is working well. i wrote down each piece as she said it. i left a blank for "toldos" since after chana found a familiar shoresh (yeled) she still wasn't sure what it was exactly. when we got to בהבראם she remembered the prefixes in and the (the ה isn't exactly the, but the quirk of grammar i let go) and absolutely melted down screaming at the ם suffix. me trying to remind her about r' winder or give her choices was not flying. "I CAAAAAAN'T REMEEEEEEMMMMBBBBEEEER r' winder!!!"

i had a brainstorm. "do you want me to bring down the r' winder book and you can find the different parts?" absolutely. i got it down, she found the suffix easily, i plugged it into the whiteboard, she read the whole thing and it made sense.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

the white board

so i went in with the whiteboard today. i wrote כי בו שבת מכל מלאכתו on top (yep, i can do hebrew font. turns out i was writing this on the upstairs computer, where i hadn't installed the hebrew font yet because it's a new computer!)

and i color coded it. oh, i can do that here too.
כי בו שבת מכל מלאכתו

then i wrote:
because in IT (שבת)
HE rested from all
HIS work

the turquoise was color coded for regular words and nouns. the dark blue were prefixes, and the orange was the him/his/it suffix (so chana would see that the same suffix would be different things), and the taf was yellow because it's a ה that turns to a ת as opposed to a prefix or suffix meaning "you." and the red was a verb.

i had chana read the english a few times, to get the flow. then i had her translate from the pasuk (which she hated because she "already knows this!"). then i had her take a marker of her color choice and match the top of the white board (hebrew) to the bottom translation.

it was a failure as a lesson.

reading the english was helpful because it gave her the flow of the phrase. however, she had a really hard time matching up the different components, and found it boring and annoying and pointless and i believe it is still way too much for her to keep in her head. i think the best thing to do is just keep pushing forward and telling her and one day, in a few years, it clicks. i guess time will tell. i'm pretty sure that's what happened with sarah.

anyway, while we had spent a good possibly 10 minutes on all this (including the time in the middle when i stopped to stick jack in bed), it was pretty disheartening that even with all that she still didn't see all the different components.

we also had a screaming fight in the middle (ב"ה, just her screaming, and ב"ה i have worked on this so much i am not reactive to her screaming and tantruming like i used to be) where she said that saying "he" is correct when it should be "him/his/it." because she means a boy. and i said, ok, so should i say correct when you say "he"? and she said yes. and i said, "so then it would be 'he melacha' or 'melacha he'" and she screeched, "what's the DIFFERENCE?!" and i said, "is 'his melacha' and 'he melacha' the same thing?" and she screamed, "NO!" and i said, "should i tell you what it is?" and she screamed that she would figure it out. i'm still not sure how she wants me to handle it. i have to tell her she's right, but also let her know that she has to choose his/him/it. ok.

anyway, maybe you'll think i'm nuts after all that, but i decided what the heck, i'll just see how she reacts to me suggesting that she translate the last quarter of the pasuk. (אשר ברא אלוקים לעשות)
surprisingly (although perhaps not so surprising, as my intuition urged me to do so), she agreed.
she remembered "that."
naturally, she forgot "bara." i gave her a choice of "he" or "she" and she chose she. sigh.
then i turned to the first pasuk and showed her bereshis bara elokim and said "in the beginning, hashem..."
and she said, and i quote, "what mommy? sorry, i didn't hear you. i heard "blah blah blah blah, hashem." "

note to parents and teachers: i believe that students frequently hear that. anyone remember how the adults in charlie brown spoke on the tv specials?
so i tamped down my desire to grit my teeth and laughed with her. then i did it again and she remembered it was created.

since i had the white board out, i wrote "that HE created."
this way she can keep the thread of the pasuk. i think i'll do that from now on. i'll write it down when she says it, then she can look back on what she did when she loses the thread. that way it's her work and she's controlling when she needs help and how she gets it.

לעשות was slightly challenging for her. but then i said it in hebrew "la'asot" and she said "to make."

i wondered: hashem rested from all his work that he created to do? to do what?

but poor chana was wiped out and not interested in the question. she said, "to do thingamajigs." and thought that was very funny.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

the review

chana asked to skip today. not a great way to go in. she agreed to review yesterday's words.

ki she remembered
vo in his
(it's actually in IT, it being shabbos)
she didn't remember. i asked if it was shabbos or melacha, she said shabbos. she was completely lost regarding the verb structure (that it is a verb, that it means "he rested." i gave her choices: he, she, them, you. she said please give her only 2 choices)
mikol no problem
melachto she felt she had seen it, but didn't remember.
the vav at the end she said was him or it. (in this case, it's "his. sigh. it's a lot to keep track of, especially if you don't grasp it as a whole). melacha i sang a song, she still didn't remember it. i said it's avoda. she said why didn't you just say so.

i said, did you understand what all the words put together mean? she said no. i said we'll do it again tomorrow.

now that we are finished, i think i was remiss in not saying "because on IT (shabbos) he (hashem) rested from all HIS work."

i think tomorrow i will have her write each translation on a white board, then i will write the above line on the white board and see if we can make some progress.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

why does this take 1/2 hr to write when in real time it was 5 min?

let's discuss the complications of
ki vo shavat mikol melachto
asher bara elokim la'asos.

first, the external complications. i was hungry, chana was hungry, elazar was hungry. i wanted to get it done (when oh when am i going to learn that "getting it done" is completely counterproductive, not to mention giving the student the message that, in the words of the rambam, it's a burden to be cast off my shoulders). jack needed to be held. chana wanted to play on the computer and i told her i'd like to do chumash first. she agreed. but then she had no patience for me needing to get elazar settled with food, with tv, so we could concentrate.

so in that environment, already not ideal for learning, the pasuk itself is quite complicated for a student with chana's beginning skill set.

ok, she didn't remember that "ki" is because. no prob, i just used it in a sentence and she remembered it "i want to do it because i like it" or something like that.

vo, believe it or not, is complicated because 1) the student has to remember that beis and veis have the same meaning. 2) the beis prefix means in/with and 3) the vav suffix means him/his/it. (not to mention being able to correctly put in context the translation enough to choose whether it is him, his, or it).

that would be in addition to remembering yesterday's half, and seamlessly translating this into that context.

(we did do a brief review, which chana doesn't love. vayekadesh oso. she remembered and he made it special, and had a bit of a problem with "oso." she said "the same" like oto davar [nice association], and i gave her a sentence "lakachti oto" which got her to remember it is "him" but by that time she had lost the entire thread of vayekadesh oso...).

at this point, of translating "ki vo" and not quite grasping all the parts in a meaningful way, chana requested that we do only half of the half of the pasuk. i heartily agreed, seeing how complicated it was.

(ps my neighbor on the block who is homeschooling and whose child is in first grade is somehow doing 5 pesukim of chazara and 2 new pesukim a day... and questioning if she's educating well enough. fellow homeschoolers, do not fall into self-doubt! questioning if your approach is working or not is healthy. comparing yourself to others and spiralling into the stress and anxiety of a social approval framework is destructive).

anyway, moving on to "shavat" even though chana clearly hasn't gotten the flow of "ki vo" but not wanting to beat a dead horse...

chana has to realize that shavat is the same shoresh as shabbos. she has to realize it is a verb, not a noun (only plausible if she has the thread of the pasuk, which she doesn't). she has to realize that a verb with just the three letters of shoresh means "he in the past tense" ie "he rested." i told her all these things, feeling that she will not remember them, feeling that telling her things is not an optimal way for her to learn them but not knowing a better way. feeling that if i walked her through the steps she would lose patience. (suggestions welcome).

to remind her that shavat was rested, i reclined in a resting position. she remembered it when i did that. i said "ki vo" "because on it he..." and she yelled at me for reviewing, even though i was reviewing it and not making her review it, and even though the review is necessary for her to keep track of what's happening. (note to self: i think perhaps chana would be more receptive to review if i explain to her that the purpose is to hold all the pieces together to make the translation make sense. i have to figure out exactly how to explain it to her and then attempt to do so).

mikol was no problem, and melachto, despite it's having shown up 3x in the last few days, is still a blank stare. (note to self: i could have given her multiple choice to see if she could have at least chosen it from a few choices, which would be a little more active than me just telling her what it is. it is my thought that if she says it vs me telling her, it has a diff effect on the neural pathways of her brain and she retains it better). i pointed to the vav at the end and she said "him" which is close to "his" but not close enough for it to make any sense to her.

golden nugget of the day. chana asked how hashem rested (assuming that an omnipotent being has no need to rest, or what the rest of an omnipotent being would be like). although we have a section of her notebook set aside for questions, that is the skill of writing and spelling and frankly too exhausting for chana on top of all that translating that was so complex. so i wrote the question for her, and asked her what she thought. she thought that hashem finishing his work and not creating anything would be called "resting." ding ding ding. i wrote that answer in her notebook.

yeesh, i'm exhausted. i really think rather than going on to the second half tomorrow, i'm going to review what we did today. i will explain to chana why i think review is important. (why is review important? why not just tell her what it is in english so that she can move forward?)(i think because i'd like her to go through the movements of that difficult translation again. in terms of keeping the thread, it is true that i can just do it in english for her). and hopefully she will consent to just doing it again and not doing anything new.

Monday, April 12, 2010

alfie's reasons that rewards are counterproductive, backed by research

he has 5 reasons. i'm actually only going to discuss the reasons that spoke to me.

3) rewards ignore reasons.
they encourage the rewarder to take the easy route instead of addressing underlying issues or working harder to make things more interesting or more in line with the nature of the child. maybe the work is too hard or too boring. maybe a different approach would be better.

4) rewards discourage risk taking
i am finding this to be something i hadn't thought about, and quite intriguing. what happens is, the person does exactly what is necessary to get the reard and no more. it puts students into thinking inside a box, rather than thinking outside the box. the objective is not to suceed at the task, the objective is to get the reward. he cites studies that preschoolers, grade schoolers, and adults working for rewards try to avoid anything challenging.


the lesson is that school is not about playing with ideas or taking intellectual risks; it is about doing what is necessary, and only what is necessary, to snag a better letter or number. most students will quickly accommodate us, choosing "to do that which will maximize the grade and not attempting tasks in which they might fail, even though they would choose to challenge themselves to a greater degree under other circumstances."


if anything deserves to be called natural, it is the tendency to seek optimal challenge, to struggle to make sense of the world, to fool around with unfamiliar ideas. human beings are inclined to push themselves to succeed at something (moderately) difficult.

and 5) perhaps the most deadly and i'm actually noticing that it is true: rewards cut the interest rate. he quotes studies that people's interest in what they are doing typically declines when they are rewarded for doing it. he has an entire chapter devoted to this. extremely convincing. if there is request, i will sum up some of his arguments.


while chana was drawing, i asked her what vayekadesh is. she had no idea. i said "the word i told you i was going to ask you from chumash." she remembered immediately. i asked her how hashem made yom hashvi'i special. she said she didn't know.

i said nothing.

she said, "how did hashem make it special?"

well since you asked...

i said, what day is yom hashvi'i?

she said she didn't know. then she realized it was shabbos. she said it was special because hashem finished his work (i like that she drew upon pshat for the answer). then she said, no, that's not special. then she said hashem made shabbos special by we don't have to do any work that day.

i am wondering if it is worthwhile to have her put all the words together tomorrow when she clearly has a grasp of the flow of what we did today, even though she didn't actually translate it word for word into coherence. she will perceive a review as annoying and pointless, and i don't think it will ultimately advance her translation skills. thanks for helping me think that through.

in under a minute

i wanted to do chumash while both boys were sleeping, but chana was playing club penguin and wanted another 1/2 hr. i would have agreed except i knew jack would be up before then. i told her 10 min warning, and when jack started to whimper around that time, i quickly opened the chumash. i knew we'd finish before he got to a full blown cry.

she had trouble with vayevarech and vayekadesh even though she recognized bracha and kiddush. i told her vayekadesh meant "and he made special." and i told her that tomorrow i was going to ask her what that word meant. and i asked her one more time what it meant, and she said "to make special." so maybe she will remember it tomorrow.

i would love to bring up the questions of what it means to bless a day and what it means to make a day special.

she did not put the words together to understand what the phrases mean as a cohesive whole. i think perhaps tomorrow i will try to get her to understand it as a whole and to discuss those questions, and we won't go on to the second half of the pasuk.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

some days are like this

well, today wasn't great, but i kept my cool. mostly.

so i knew chana wouldn't remember melachto even though we did it yesterday. and i figured vayishbot would be tough, even though she knows shabbos. so i told her vayishbot means rested (she got the "and he" with no problem, at least). but she absolutely fell apart when we got to melachto. it's just too many steps. she doesn't like to look up words that she wrote in her personal dictionary (sarah used to, but i guess every kid is different). she didn't remember that the tuf from melachto was a "hey" and went into a full blown temper tantrum that she doesn't remember anything from r' winder and she wants me to just tell her. she thinks the tuf means "you" (which it often does) and is confused about that the tuf is a hey with a prefix. she also doesn't remember the vocab from one day to the next. even though i sang her a song with it. she was so nasty i walked away from her, telling her she cannot speak to me that way, leaving her sobbing on the couch that she just doesn't remember anything from r' winder.

luckily, somebody called asking me to go for a walk, which motivated me to quickly break the impasse. i went back to her and asked her what she wants me to do in those situations. she said, "just tell me what it is." i said but then it's not you translating, it's me translating. she said, "just tell me what it is." clearly she doesn't care who is translating, because her goal (understanding the pasuk) is not exactly the same as my goal (having her learn to translate as independently as possible).

then, we had another small tussle, which is that although she translated all the words independently, i wanted her to go back and "put the puzzle together" ie figure out what the whole phrase was. chana feels that this is "review" (even though to me it isn't, since she never fully understood it as a whole). she reluctantly translated again, and put it together. very nicely.

also, today was the first time that she translated "asher" as "that" without my "th..." prompt. i held out my hand to shake hands with her, saying that this was the first time she remembered it without my prompt. she ignored my hand and turned away, pouting. i said, "you are angry with me about the translating." and she nodded.

i have to get through alfie about praising. also a point to ponder is that she is clearly telling me what she wants and how she wants me to handle her not remembering vocabulary. also to note that she learned the word "asher." her way.

Friday, April 9, 2010

pretty smooth

chana wrote down melacha. i reminded her that we learned in r' winder that the taf with a prefix was originally a "hey." (ie melachto is melacha shelo). then she looked it up in the dictionary. she was happy that she opened up to the "mem" section, but it took her a really long time to go through the letters. she opened up to the end of mem, and kept asking me if tzadi, pey, ayin, nun came before or after mem. i stood next to her and turned the pages back with her until she got to mem lamed. then i asked her if aleph came before or after whatever the third letter was of the mem-lamed word. she knew aleph was before :)

she had a hard time finding it on the page. i showed her the general area. she had a hard time picking out which definition fit. (work). she wrote it down. (geez, i'm exhausted writing all this. no wonder she runs out of steam after looking up one word).

then, wondering if i was pushing too hard, i verbally reviewed the pasuk "hashem gamar bayom hashvi'i..."
"his work!" chana said.
"asher asa..." i prompted. no response.
"th..." i prompted.
"that," chana said.
"asa..." i prompted.
"he did."

so what did hashem do on the 7th day? he finished everything.

next time, second half of the pasuk. i think she knows all the words.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

back from vacation

you know, it takes longer to write this than it does to do it.

so i've been trying to get to chumash all evening. finally things calmed down enough and i noticed that chana wasn't even in the house. she popped over to a friend. so i started cooking for shabbos, and eventually she mosied on back home at 8:40. i mixed up the kneidlach and put the water to boil, and that's when we sat down to chumash. how long does it take for a pot to boil? about 6 minutes? we finished before that.

so it has been a while, and i had no recollection of what we had left off with. i opened the chumash, and there was the post-it. so surely chana will not remember the new words from last time (vayechulu and tz'va'am). i am not so thrilled with the fact that i'm not reviewing, and therefore chana is not really picking up new vocabulary. but i am going to remind myself of why i made that decision: chana does not enjoy review. the goal i have chosen is to teach her to find the shoresh and use the dictionary, and to learn to translate. with those tools she will be independent should she choose to learn later in life. it is not necessary to torture her with review.
oh, yeah.

so i racked my brain for a review question that would be short and to the point, and at the same time review and lead into our current pasuk. so i said, "what happened to the sky and the land?" and she totally remembered that they were finished. nice :-)

now the challenge of how we were going to work this next bit. there was one new word in the half she was doing, and we had decided we were no longer going (OMG I FORGOT THE KNEIDLACH!!! excuse me while i go turn them off) (whew, they didn't burn) to read the pasuk on its own night, but rather read a phrase and then translate it.
so there were a few difficult elements. first, just to look up a word saps chana's energy. she usually can't do that AND translate. second, although she knew all the other words in the pasuk half, it is long enough that she wouldn't be able to piece it together. i knew she would lose the thread of what it is saying.
so we were trying to figure out how much to do and how to do it, and i said let's just start and see how it goes. i figured i'd read her cues and see when (hopefully before) it was getting too much.

so she read v'yechal elokim. she guessed the 3rd shoresh letter was "hey." (boy i wish i could figure out how to do hebrew font on this blog). she didn't remember what it meant, even when i pointed to the previous pasuk (vayechulu), but when i said gamar she got it. (also, she thought it was like "kol," to which i intelligently did NOT point out the connection coz that would bore her).
bayom hashvi'i she translated. she did not want to look up melacha and said she'll do it tomorrow. she remembered that the vav at the end (melachto) was he (or more correctly, him/his, but i'll take "he"). asher still needs a prompt from me ("th..."). and asa she translated correctly. all of this is way too much for her to put together. and she still doesn't know what melachto means. i said "v'hashem gamar bayom shevi'i" and she translated that. we'll see how tomorrow goes.

also, as per alfie (though i didn't get a chance to read his book this chag and i had thought i would), i told chana that i'm no longer giving her a reward chart for doing chumash since i didn't think it was particularly motivating her. naturally, taking away this chart felt like a punishment... (a pitfall of rewards that he discusses) so i upped her allowance. so now she has a way of accruing the money she would like for her weekly ice cream or soda or whatever small toy she is saving up for, and it's not related to doing chumash.