Monday, August 9, 2010

i do not unschool chumash

the chazara went well this morning. as usual, the newer words/pesukim need more review. the review is working out nicely because words are coming up again.

today's conflict came about during the new pasuk. there were the words arubot, tehom, and maayanot. i kept flipping back to where they were in the pasuk we had done in the past. in addition to not looking familiar in their new surroundings, the grammar was slightly different and it was throwing her off. in the old pasuk: they were split, all the wells of the great deep, and the openings of the sky, they were opened. in the new pasuk: and they were dammed, the wells of the deep, and the openings of the sky.

anyway, things got a little intense and chana told me to shut up, and thus ended up back in time out. thankfully, i don't recall exactly what she said as she slammed the door, but it was funny. i think it was something like "i'm going to snap this pencil and this pencil represents you." excellent usage of the word "represents."

after timeout we finished up the pasuk uneventfully, had a break, and skirmished briefly over rashi. in my incessant meaniness, i am doing 6 words with correct pronunciation AND translation. 5x repeat. chana was still peeved from our earlier interaction and came into rashi in a bad mood. though from last weeks' me sticking to my guns, she was accepting that she was going to do it 5x.

i was asked why i am struggling so much with chana about this. this seems in opposition to my generally relaxed attitude about education, and my general unschooling approach of allowing the child to pursue knowledge when it interests him, and my general confidence that this leads to a human being who is equipped for life with curiosity, a thirst for knowledge and information, the ability to pursue and acquire the skills and knowledge that they are looking for. if i believe all that, then why am i spending so much time fighting chana's natural inclinations and not following her lead on this.

i think that with chana's personality, she and i are bound to have daily conflict. over this or over something else. unless, that is, i am willing to let her do whatever she wants. which i'm not; there is going to be something she and i don't agree on. for chumash, i have certain skills that i want her to achieve. so i work towards them. and her shrieking at me and how i handle it is really a parenting issue more than a chinuch issue. the irony is that it's not a struggle in the sense that she's not refusing to do it. (and i have been the recipient of her refusals in the past :-P). it's a conflict, but not a struggle. i guess that's probably semantics. what i mean is that basically she yells and screams, but it's really just her venting her frustration and not actually refusing to do it. it's very much like her shrieking through her video games. when she plays ds or nintento gamecube, and the game is hard but she wants to master it, she keeps going and going but she screams and screams and screams. (it bothers sarah; she always wants chana to stop). but if chana is willing to keep going, who are we to tell her to stop, despite the shrieking? and it's not like chana is shrieking at anyone when she plays video games. she's just being frustrated and having her feelings. during chumash, i'm actually there so i get yelled at. so it becomes a parenting issue of me coaching her through handling her frustration without being chutzpadik. i am doing ok in the not yelling at her department, not doing as well in the stopping the behavior department. but she's so frustrated it's hard to ask for more. and i think the frustration is a natural result of her not being automatically good at something. which, with her personality, she tends to shy away from and would not like to work on things that she isn't naturally good at. (who does? but some ppl are more irritated and shrieky about it than others). some kids don't mind putting in the time practicing and practicing, let's say, writing letters until they have nice handwriting. chana and i used to have battles about learning her letters, too. after consulting my sister, the OT, i wanted her to write them from top to bottom (which is supposed to make it easier and quicker to write) and she didn't naturally do it that way and she would get so angry. i wonder now if i would unschool writing and just wait until she figured it out herself.
anyway, my point is that shrieking in frustration does not necessarily mean that we are in conflict. when i say "let's do chumash" she does not refuse, and she doesn't tell me she hates it and doesn't want to do it. when i push her to exercise her abilities further than is comfortable for her, she shrieks in protest.

at this point in my life, i don't think that a child of her age naturally inclines towards hebrew reading and translating skills. thinking and analysis are things a human being naturally desires, but slogging through translation is not something she would be motivated on her own. and if i wait until she is motivated, then it will likely be past the time when i would be educating her. it's true that a person can acquire translation skills in a few years as an adult, with tremendous motivation. but if a person doesn't have the skills, and only has moderate motivation, lack of skills makes for giving up more easily.

maybe this is an extreme example. let's say i thought that fighting skills were necessary for saving chana's life. maybe she'll use them, maybe she won't. maybe she'd never meet someone where she needs her self-defense skills. but i'm not willing to let her go off out of my r'shus without me equipping her with the skills i think are life-saving.
i think torah is vital. she may choose not to use her skills for in-depth study of torah and mefarshim. but it won't be because she isn't properly equipped.

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