Tuesday, December 27, 2011

playful parenting

we didn't start too pleasantly. i let chana choose how many pesukim she wanted. they seemed not too complicated (though a bit long) and i figured we would do 4. after the first one chana got kind of grouchy and didn't really understand it. i had also decided to let her choose chazara, and she chose the shortest aliya. i felt she should do only 10 min of one she didn't know as well, but she said she needs review of that one, too. so we stopped after 2 pesukim and moved on to chazara. once we were there (it went pretty quickly), i decided to review the rashis on those pesukim. chana protested and kind of jokingly said, "don't make me use the force." in a darth vader voice. i have been reading playful parenting by lawrence cohen, and i've been looking for ways to lighten things up with my 10 yr old. (by the way, i attempted to use pretzels as drumsticks when we took a small break to get a snack which jack found highly entertaining and chana said, "i'm not really finding this funny."). anyway, when chana started reading the rashi, with this book in mind, i started choking. chana was shocked; she thought jack was choking me. i said she used the force on me because she was doing the rashis she didn't want to do. she found this hilarious and reenacted it with me starting the translation and her choking. she complimented me on being extremely dramatic and it did lighten the tone and we finished in a good mood.

Monday, December 26, 2011

skills vs tears

i wanted to do chumash before we went to fun zone today. chana didn't want to. i threatened. we did it with tears. and rashi. got the job done, but with hatred and anger. leaving me with my usual question. is this important to be disciplined or am i making her hate it long term.

happy chanuka

Friday, December 23, 2011

no chazara today

today i asked chana if she wanted to do chumash before her friend came over. it's chanuka and short friday, so if we don't do it now, it might not get done. first chana said ok, then she said she'd rather do it later. i asked her to do it now, and we can do rashi later. she asked if we can just do new pesukim today and chazara tomorrow night (she doesn't usually like to do work motzei shabbos). so i agreed. she asked how many we were doing, and i said as many as you want. she said, "oh, you think it's going to be interesting to me?" i shrugged because i'm still not feeling so great, so it doesn't matter hugely to me.

but she was eager to see if the whole city was going to be convinced to do bris milah. i showed her there were 3 pesukim of convincing and then we'd see. she was genuinely startled that they all agreed. she was about to close the book, and i said if she reads 2 more pesukim she's going to be shocked. when she read that shimon and levi killed them all, her mouth dropped open. she imagined all of the men of her town being slaughtered. interesting how her identification went straight to the city of shchem. i told her that we are bnei yisroel and it was as if she had been kidnapped and elazar and jack rescued her. so she thanked them for being great brothers. she asked if yaakov told them to do this. i said no. she asked what happened to the rest of the town. she will find out soon.

i hope we get to rashi today, but on a short friday, it's not crazy if we don't.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

back to the old question of chazara. these pesukim are not very difficult, but could use some chazara. but chana is only doing a couple of new pesukim a day, because if she does a lot, then it makes her chazara longer.

today we just did words. it probably did not help that i was doing chana's final lice check (cleared! yay!) and aharon was crawling all over her and jack was pouring conditioner on her head and beating up aharon.

have i mentioned before that a problem i have regarding chumash is that i find it very hard to just relax and be present? yes, i have.

anyway, we would probably get through the story faster if i wouldn't make her review. why do i want her to go faster? not to cover ground per se. i think she would enjoy the flow of the narrative better if she could see it unfold more smoothly and quickly.

i don't feel like arguing over how many pesukim we are doing. but i'm not so happy with her choices. i suppose that is why i usually argue with her.

we still have rashis to do. also, i have a cold and would rather be in bed.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

today i told chana we would do rashi later in the afternoon and we'd do however many pesukim she wanted. she said she was interested in this story. she did 7 pesukim. the first one was a bit complicated and we might have done just one or 2 if i chose how many. she herself said that if i would have told her to do that many pesukim she would have said no way. so the little step of letting her do however much she wants was nice today.

then we did the 5 new rashis from yesterday, and none of the old rashis even though they can probably use a review or two. hopefully we'll get back to them. the new rashis are pretty easy in terms of vocab, and with the nekudos they aren't tough. she's not ready to read them without nekudos, though.

Monday, December 19, 2011

homeschooling with the siblings

today was really one of those days that homeschooling would go better if the little ones weren't around. the morning was fine; we finished revi'i and did a little of chamishi and it was quick. finally we got to rashi in the afternoon, and i had gone through and found 5 new rashis, which chana remarked that she was flabbergasted by that amount. i told her she would read them (with nekudos) and i would translate. but jack, who was asleep when we started, began crying in the middle. elazar was throwing things and i had him in time out. aharon, who was crawling happily, crawls all over the chumash and grabs for it and eventually, when i put him further away, began crying who knows why. so we have 2 kids screaming and one kid wild and needing discipline. add that to chana who is not thrilled to be doing so many rashis.

i know i wanted to be cheerful and not rushed. but i DO feel rushed in these circumstances. i think i have to work on not conveying impatience in these situations. i'm the one who wants to "be done" and "not have it on my head." chana doesn't mind taking breaks and coming back to it.

it took a half an hour to do rashi.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

why are sundays harder even though more help is theoretically home?

did first 2 pesukim in chamishi and wanted to chazer revi'i, but chana bargained me down to half of revi'i. still getting tripped up on the same phrases. i decided no rashi today (it's sunday).

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

what about socialization?

so chana wanted me to go to the library for her this morning. so i did. on the way home i was thinking more about this unschooling thing. what would happen if i just dropped chumash? never brought it up? only did it when she requests?

this got me thinking about socialization. because both are related to high school. i know chana will likely start yearning for more social interaction as she becomes a teenager. she asked to go to sleepaway camp. all things being equal, she is young. i'd like to send her to daycamp. she doesnt' want to go.

i'm kind of wondering what would happen if i just unschooled her til high school, and then high school came around, and she wants to go to high school. considering that it's really in high school that unschoolers start seriously pursuing academics.

but leaving high school aside, what would happen if i just don't ask her to do it? how many years or months would go by? i wonder.

i'm too chicken to start now. chana said she'd do it at 3. should i remind her it's 3? should i wait until she asks? though i think even if i were unschooling, if she asked to do it at 3, i would tell her it's 3 and offer to do it with her.


yeesh that took a full hour. granted, probably half of that hour was spent moving the chumash away from aharon, moving jack off of aharon, and moving aharon away from the door that elazar was swinging off of. but it did seem like a full hour of work. first revi'i, then new pasuk (just one), then rishon, then rashis.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

asked and answered

i am currently unschooling everything except chumash/rashi with my 10 yr old daughter. i am seriously contemplating completely unschooling for my boys. the oldest is 4 now, so we have a few years before it becomes an issue. (i was going to send this to you personally, and then i figured that anyone thinking about unschooling might be interested in our discussion).

i definitely prefer unschooling. i have been able to be relaxed about science and social studies, then about reading and writing, and finally even math (and i never thought that would happen!).

however, i am too nervous to unschool for judaic studies. i am considering it, though, because i feel that my daughter's chumash is lacking the love and joy of other subjects. that could be, though, because she works hard at the skills and has an unschooler's reluctance to engage in tasks that aren't driven by her own motivation.

i feel that there are two factors that give me the confidence to unschool:
1. i am absolutely certain the kids will eventually learn the skill. (eg reading and writing)
2. i am ok if they don't learn it (eg they learn what they like in science and i don't care if they never cover the life cycle of butterflies)

neither of those apply to judaic studies skills. although i am fairly certain they will learn to read (and probably write) hebrew, i am not sure that they will put in the effort to acquire the skills necessary for translation. the few unschoolers i've spoken to did feel some desire as their bar mitzvas approached. however, their parents were not orthodox and did not particularly care if they grew up and can't make a laining.

also, i understand that a lot of this type of learning would take place in the high school years. i'm a little concerned about that because i have not had much success yet in providing sufficient socialization in the high school years and my daughter went to school. i suppose it would be ok for us to unschool until high school and then if they want to go to school then they'd be motivated to learn whatever skills they need :-P

anyway, if you have older children and have unschooled them, could you describe the process of how they became interested in chumash, mishna or gemara and how they continued until skill acquisition.

i can easily see the kids being motivated here and there to ask questions, to see, to want to know.. but i find it hard to envision how they would end up being motivated to slog through the hours required to gain the skills to read and translate it proficiently.

thank you!

I agree with you on the first factor for homeschooling, but not the second.

My approach is rather that if I feel something is important for my kids to know, then I am going to find a way to make it fun, interesting and relevant to their lives, and talk to them about why I feel it is important. Then I can be sure that they will get to it sooner or later :-)

If you or your husband cannot (for whatever reason) read/learn chumash/mishna/gemara with your kids, then finding a chug or mentor or tutor can be a good option. A mentor who leads the way and sets an example is an invaluable part of a child's life. Finding the right connection and the right person is the challenge to the homeschooling parent. My oldest went to a mishna chug in the neighbourhood that a neighbour started because he was having so much fun learning mishna with his son, he wanted to open it up to more boys and do it all together. My son loved it - it was fun and interesting. Mainly, I think, because this particular man had a knack for connecting the text to real life.

After a few years, the neighbour wanted to stop doing it. Another neighbour tried to take over, but it wasn't the same, and the boys in the group were a bit older (and most had crazy long hours of school) and it just stopped happening... However, my oldest had already developed the skills required to learn mishna and, ultimately, that is what I care about - not how many mishnayot he has memorized. The nice sequel is that since then my oldest teaches mishna to his younger brother and sisters. I love hearing them learning together, and seeing the enjoyment being shared and passed on :-)

My husband used to learn chumash with the kids, but a couple of years got "bored" with going over the same stories again and again. So I have been trying to take it over. It's very hard for me to make the time to sit and do it with the kids because we're very free-flowing unschoolers, and also out of the house a lot. So I try and focus on Shabbatot. I prefer to keep sessions short and fun and interesting, to maintain their interest, and so far so good. I think :-) I find that I'm referring to halachot, chagim and stories in the Tanach here and there when talking with the kids - so then that often prompts a desire to learn it "inside" the text, to understand it better, get the complete story, etc.

I usually focus my Tanach time on my youngest - it's amazing how fast the 11yo (and sometimes the 14yo) gravitates closer to listen too... I also don't "translate" chumash for them - at most I will repeat a phrase in more modern Hebrew by way of explanation, and then (where possible) show them how that correlates with the text.

Incidentally, my 16yo wasn't comfortable and fluent with reading/writing Hebrew until a couple of years ago. He knew the tefillot (by heart), but reading was a struggle he was not interested in. Then he wanted to take a maths course... and the rest is history :-) I had spent those (worrying) years talking to him at any opportunity, but without pressure, about how important reading and writing are, and that at some point when it matters to him, and when he's ready, he will pick up those skills. Well, he did. It worked. (He's now working on a maths degree (bachelor's) at the Open University, and all the course materials are in Hebrew and of course he has to submit his homework in Hebrew.)

And sometimes we end up going a few weeks without learning any chumash -- just the way life flows. I don't get worked up about it. It's similar to having a week or so of not practising violin for whatever reason. We get back to it all when we're ready.

My husband has learned a little bit of gemara with the oldest, but they haven't managed to hit on a subject that'll hold my 16yod's interest. If anyone has any suggestions of what parts to learn with a math-oriented teenager, I'd appreciate it. I was not taught gemara, so i can't step in there and help. I did start going to a gemara shiur for women at one point, but it was so boring, I left. That could have been due to various factors, but it still means I'm left in a position where I can't help my son to learn this.

I care about my kid getting the skills to learn, so that they can spend the rest of their lives learning (and enjoying). I don't need them to complete a siyum or learn by rote any quantity of anything. I think that different focus is also a relevant and important factor.

I hope this helps,

thinking more about unschooling

we had a week and a half off because we had a little vacation and then came home to lice. so it was a bit tough getting chana back into the swing of things, which had me question more and more her negative attitude and got me thinking about unschooling again. after this post, i will post the question i posed to the orthodox homeschooling message board (to which there has not yet been a response).

i decided yesterday to just do one new pasuk and just do revi'i (usually i like to do an old aliya as chazara, but she was so negative). we aren't that far in to revi'i so i figured it wouldn't take so long, but as often happens, chana's dread made it so that we argued about starting for longer than it actually ended up taking. if she dislikes chumash so much, is it because i am doing it wrong? is it her personality? is it because i unschool her in other areas and she is not used to applying herself so hard to something she dislikes?

personally, i think it is a combination of all three. an argument about unschooling is often that the kids will grow up to be adults who are unable to apply themselves. i think at this point, with a decent amount of unschooling children growing up to be functional , responsible, contributing citizens, coupled with the millions of children who have gone through the school system yet shockingly are still unable to apply themselves to things they dislike, makes me not too worried. when i first started homeschooling, i thought long and hard about what my educational goals were. (i may have mentioned this before).

1. basic skills necessary to get a job (reading etc)
2. a sense of responsibility so that they are emotionally capable of showing up to work on time and can be relied upon to do the job
3. the ability to have enjoyable relationships in marriage, family and friends
4. a non-idolatrous view of judaism and the ability and desire to learn torah.

but i'm getting distracted. my point is, sarah is extremely responsible and trustworthy and i believe chana is making excellent progress on this as well. furthermore, many people in life apply themselves more when they have the confidence and freedom to follow their interests, which unschooled children are quite skilled at.

so i think that my tendency to feel rushed and to put pressure and to radiate slight disapproval when the student doesn't know a translation is DEFINITELY contributing to negative feelings. it would be incumbent on me to work really hard to be in a pleasant state of mind during chumash and to make jokes and radiate positivity. this would probably go a long way.

it might even offset the negativity she feels about applying herself and working hard.

(thanks a lot for helping me "talk" that out, make it conscious, and hopefully improve).

anyway, yesterday she did really well at rashi despite the long break. we still have not read them in the chumash without nekudos. perhaps that will be for tomorrow. today we did just one more pasuk, and i let her choose which aliyah to review, and she chose shlishi because it is so short.

tomorrow we will hopefully read those rashis in the other chumash, do one more pasuk, and review rishon or sheni, her choice.

Friday, December 2, 2011

erev shabbos chumash

erev shabbos. a short shabbos. tough to get work in. we aren't having company, so food is fairly minimal. chana woke up at 10. we negotiated to do work at 11. i have to make a decision between fractions and chumash these days. after 6+ months of hiatus in math, chana is finally grasping it again. i am doing it the way i wish i could do chumash. slowly, pleasantly, with no agenda in mind other than that she fully and completely understands what we do. and to stop before she gets overloaded.

i haven't come to that place regarding chumash. it's about skill of translation more than understanding, i feel rushed to press forward, i want to accomplish.
all of these things remove the joy and relaxation from chumash can cause it to be something that is a chore rather than a pleasure.

practically, chana did shlishi today and then zipped through the old rashis (which we are still doing with nekudos) and then did 4 new rashis with much complaint. the last two, she just read and i translated for her. she griped, "but even if we do that, you are still going to ask me the shoresh, and i'll say i dont' know, and you'll say try, and i'm going to get annoyed." i agreed.

hopefully we can chap a couple of new pesukim today after candlelighting, but if not, not.