Tuesday, January 31, 2012


so today i tried picking just 5 pesukim and reviewing them 3x. first i had to decide which pesukim. then we had to choose do 5 in a row, 3x? or each one 3x and then move on to the next? chana decided to do the latter. she said she'd remember it more easily if she had just done it, rather than having time in between.

she did 3 pesukim (not easy ones) about 3x each and she ran out of steam. she began complaining. at this point, if i were unschooling, i would stop. the guiding principle of unschooling would dictate that she is no longer interested, and it's time to be done. maybe that is how i'll do it with the boys. not true unschooling, but ask "who wants to learn" when i have a moment, and if i'm taken up on it, then stop when they feel they've had enough.

but i'm not unschooling chumash , and

one answer to the question that always comes up regarding homeschooling: "but how will they learn to persist and follow through and complete things they don't like"***

is that there are many situations where it's not torturous to push through and past their comfort zone and have them do a little more. and so it was with these last 2 pesukim. then we did new pesukim. 2 new ones, fairly complex. we still have rashi to do. chana asked how yehuda thought she was a zona because her face was covered. rashi addresses that.

*** i often hear that as "how will we train them to be obedient, locking themselves into doing things that make them miserable like the rest of the world?"

Monday, January 30, 2012

changing chazara method for a bit

revi'i is beginning to feel pretty long to both of us. even starting at pasuk 9, we are 15 pesukim (at pasuk 24) and they aren't quick. chana keeps asking the same words over and over. i wonder how many reviews it would take for her to do them. maybe doing as much of the aliya as we are up to isn't working. it's tedious, and she doesn't seem to be remembering the new words. perhaps doing only 4 or 5 pesukim a day, and doing them a few times until she is more fluent, might be better.

we only did one new pasuk and she probably would have been able to do more if her energy hadn't been used up on chazara where she already knows the story and found tedious.

then we took a break. rashi took 20 minutes with some complaints. a common back and forth between us is that it's too much to do, whereupon i say, "but it's been only 10 minutes."
i noticed today that instead of saying it's too much, she said that she knows it isn't so much but it feels like a lot.
despite her complaints, rashi went pretty smoothly.

i discussed the possible change in chazara method, and chana is reluctant. she agreed to try it tomorrow.

Friday, January 27, 2012

memory is a funny thing

yesterday was carschooling again. i let chana read the rashis all in hebrew and just ask me the words she didn't know. as usual, she didn't know the same words over and over and i suspect she won't be learning them anytime soon. which reminds me, one of the words in our current batch of pesukim is "bilti" and i know for a fact i drilled and drilled her that it means "not" and yet she does not remember it every time. (on the up side, I remember it now :-P)

anyway, i had her dissecting shorashim on one of the rashis. we've done the rashi a bunch of times and she keeps having trouble remembering that kallah is daughter-in-law and that was ok in the rashi, where it shows up 2 or 3 times, but now it's showing up in tamar and yehuda and i'm getting sick of telling it to her. so i said, i'd like you to remember this word.

this upset her so much (the dissecting of the words, which drains her of energy) that she cried she can't do anymore rashis.

i decided, since i was in the car, to practice empathy. what does that have to do with being in the car? well, a good deal of it is that the other 3 kids are buckled and don't need any energy at all (assuming they aren't crying). so i can think through my responses and aim for ideal rather than triage. anyway, i have long suspected that empathy is a more effective response (as well as kinder) than being harsh. and when i do it, the results are positive. i empathized, i didn't have any feelings one way or the other whether she continued rashi or whether she stopped (that, too, is key--when i have a vested interest in her doing a set amount, i end up pressuring her, to the detriment of our relationship and her love of chumash). after a moment or two, where she complained about how hard it was and about how she's not doing anymore, where i accepted her feelings and did not agree that she could stop, but did not disagree, she moved on to more rashis.

she did a couple of new pesukim. new pesukim are tricky in the car, because i can't see it and i can't help her break down words or phrases by pointing out of order which helps sometimes in the translation. carschooling is generally better for chazara or easy pesukim.

today, we started from the middle of revi'i. she mostly remembered kallah. those recent pesukim needed more attention from yesterday. it's friday, so we haven't done rashi and we may or may not get to it. she doesn't know the story or yehuda and tamar. i guess ari didn't tell it to her. or she was too young to comprehend it. she realized that tamar was heading towards where yehuda was. (this was a bit of effort, because for some reason, she keeps having trouble with the word "timnasa" ie "to the place timna.") she asked if she was going to confront yehuda about shela. i translated zona as prostitute, but she did not ask what it was. (though i'm sure i discussed it with her as we were talking about the lyrics to certain songs on the radio. come to think of it, maybe the words were more slang than the official "prostitute.") because i could see that she didn't grasp the subtleties of the crossroads, the veil, and the bargaining, and the word "come" to her, i explained more explicitly what a prostitute is. she was duly shocked.

she said, "they had those in those days??"

Sunday, January 22, 2012

when questions lead to more work

today chana said she no longer wanted to review shlishi. since she did a decent job last time, i agreed and we only did revi'i. which means chumash took about 5 minutes. since it's sunday anyway, i didn't push her to also do chazara on rishon or sheni, which she knows decently. we also did only the last few rashis.

she asked, what happened to yosef? this reminded me of a rashi. this annoyed her. i told her we'd probably do that rashi anyway, since it's famous. she has been complaining lately that every time she asks a question, we end up doing rashi. since she finds rashi difficult, it ends up that i'm basically "punishing" her for asking questions. i don't want that, because i want to encourage questions. i don't want her to perceive that asking questions causes her more work.

otoh, it's so cool that she has these questions and rashi answers them!! it gives her a sense of what rashi is doing in his perush. but i get the sense that she does not appreciate that, since she gets annoyed that asking the question caused more work.

i'm glad that the pull of her questions is so strong that she continues to ask. but i'm not sure what to do about her complaint. i think i'll ask the orthodox homeschooler list.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


20 min on the way to parkour, covered shlishi and a couple of pesukim in revi'i.

20 min on the way home from parkour, rashis.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

not all creative learning techniques come from the teacher OR listen to your students

today chana looked at the rashis and asked if she could do them backwards. i said sure. it made a huge difference. she blitzed through them while i made cappuccino and fed jack a lemon (aharon was asleep) and elazar played.

then we took a 2+ hour break. then i had her do shlishi. she does not want to review it anymore. but i don't think she has a good grasp of it yet.

she asked why hashem didn't tell yaakov that yosef was alive. (classic question). she said hashem should tell bilha, so she wouldn't grieve.

we did talk about yitzchak crying for his son. and chana said, but yitzchak is dead. there was a funeral. eisav was there. but i did the math with her, about yaakov being about 107 and thus yitzchak being 167, and him not dying til 180. so the torah is out of order.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

and some freudian analysis

i pushed chana pretty hard this morning because i was taking the boys to see oma and til i got downstairs at 10, we only had 1 hour until we were leaving. so i wanted to do rashi first but chana wanted to do new pesukim first but i said we had to start from the beginning of shlishi. chana fought it but i was pretty recalcitrant. i didn't argue, i just insisted. she wasn't happy but she did it. then i gave her a 10 minute break and then we did rashi. i was working her pretty hard and i was in an interesting place this morning where i didn't get too involved emotionally. like i just had it in my head that we were going to cover all of shlishi and the 7 or so rashis in the hour and that's that. so she complained and muttered and sometimes whined and cried, but it was like i was a physical trainer and she was crying out with being pushed to the limit but i could tell i wasn't pushing her past her endurance. i don't know if it was because of my state of mind or if it was because of her state of mind. or a combo.

chana asked why did they say "recognize the coat of your son" vs "our brother."

at one point, she was dramatically saying that she would not or could not do a rashi. i just kept pointing to it and saying, "go." she said, "well, that's supportive." which i thought was amusing. then she asked why i laughed. she says things like a punch line and i laugh, and she asks why i think she's funny even though i know she's kind of trying to solicit the laugh.

so she was pretty annoyed at the amount of rashis. and she hit the phrase "talmud lomar." we have seen that a few times, and i've tried to teach her the definition is "this is to teach us" but it hasn't been sticking. so i have been having her do it via shoresh, and she translates it as "learn in order to say" which is close enough. so every time she hits the word "talmud" i've been having her find the shoresh if she doesn't know it. i've mentioned before that she really doesn't have an intuition for finding the shoresh like sarah did. so we practice it. which she dislikes, but i think she is coming to see it is useful and that she can know what words mean more easily if she identifies the shoresh. so she got stuck on "talmud" and i asked her for the shoresh. "talam" nope. so i pointed with my finger to the "l'mud" part.

so she said "lamud." then she said, "lamut." to die.

then she said it was "lamad" to learn. after she finished the rashi, she said, "why did i say 'lamut?''"

and i said, "because you want me to die." (she was pretty angry about the rashi, and on top of that, dissecting the shoresh). as usual, she was a little uncomfortable with the thought of her aggression against me. so i said what i always do: "you want me to die this much" (and i put my thumb and pointer together to signify just a little bit) "and overall, it wouldn't feel good if i died, because you love me and you would miss me. but if i died you wouldn't have to do these rashis or this much chumash."

then she got on the bandwagon and said, "yeah, and i could do what i want all the time. i could play on the computer and not do any chumash." pause. "unless daddy would make me do chumash, too." pause. "but i would be able to play on the computer and not do rashi." smile. "ok, next rashi."

Friday, January 13, 2012

yesterday was thoroughly uneventful, which is why i didn't write about it. today we started with rashi (woohoo!) and did that long one of reuven switching the bed. maybe another week of it and she'll be able to move on. and we have been doing a few pretty short ones in vayeshev. to which i added another one today. to chana's annoyance.

sadly, i was unable to stick to my cheerful mien during rashi. i'm disappointed in myself. on the other hand, we worked on the "do it even though you don't want to" part that everyone is so famously concerned with homeschoolers missing out on.

we did some new pesukim. finished sheni. we haven't been doing chazara. hopefully motzei shabbos she'll review rishon.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

other than rashi

i liked the layout of chumash today. we started in the morning during aharon's nap. we did rashi. i like to start with rashi, and chana likes to end with rashi. for some reason she didn't argue when i said we are just doing rashi now, and we did the big one from vayishlach about reuven switching the bed, and then 3 little ones in vayeshev.

then a few hours went by. we reviewed rishon by ideas, pausing on phrases or pesukim that i thought needed a vocab review. that went nicely.

then chana chose how many new pesukim to do. she looked it over and chose 3. i would have preferred more, but the new me lets her choose. or tries to. so she did 3. overall, a pleasant day of learning.

the pasuk says that they hated yosef because of...
and i said to chana: what 2 reasons did they hate yosef?
and she answered: because of the dreams and because of yaakov's favoritism
but we noted that the pasuk says because of the dreams and because of his words.
at first i didn't know what yosef's words were. i said it was what he said about the dreams.
chana rightly said that if he just had the dreams but didn't say anything, then the brothers wouldn't know. surprisingly, rashi says it is the bad reports that yosef brought to yaakov. i wonder if anyone else says something.

often, i find myself searching for other mefarshim who have a slightly more pshat approach than rashi to explain the basic meaning of certain phrases or pesukim. sforno or rashbam, for example. sometimes r' hirsch.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

a day in the life

so things started off badly. perhaps because it was 12:40 and chana was up at 8:30 and i felt that having over 4 hrs to do whatever meant she wouldn't need a big head's up for chumash, and chana felt differently: that she wants warning. we both got annoyed. i said how about 20 min, she said that's not enough time, i got thoroughly annoyed, she got upset at my tone, i backed down but she began complaining i'm not speaking nicely...

btw, do not think that this is a homeschooling issue. moms around the US are bickering like this with their 10 yos in all areas.

anyway, i was overcome with extreme anger about how we always get sucked into this dynamic and i walked a little away to be furious by myself. suddenly 20 min seemed like an ok deal to chana. however, when we reconvened in 20 min she was sulking. i thought to myself of the many many times i had gotten into this dynamic. not just with chana, but with sarah. i think it must have to do with the energy i give off about wanting to get chumash done asap. instead of giving off energy about how delighted i am to relaxedly sit and work with them on chumash, with no agenda other than to enjoyably work through some chumash and rashi together. i hope i continue to make strides in this. i think this is an example of how i (or any parent) can use different tools to handle different conflict situations, but essentially a lot of issues dissipate if the parent can identify the core conflicts or energy that s/he is bringing to the interaction and work through that.

anyoo, so chana is sulking and i'm having visions of how we always get entangled like this. first the negotiations about when we will do it. we used to have a lot of negotiations about how much we would do, but i've eased off a bit plus chana's skills are better plus we just are happily generally on the same wavelength at the moment. so after negotiations are done, chana is generally unhappy and worked up and we haven't even started! (it's not always like this. often it's quite pleasant. but this is definitely not rare).

so i'm searching for a way to get positive. because when chana starts sulking and speaking nastily, although i personally feel i deserve a medal* for not rising to the provocation and yelling, chana still objects to any slight indication in my voice that i am unhappy at being spoken to that way. i exasperatedly said, "are we going to be in this mood during chumash?" and she said she doesn't like my tone. and i said well, i don't like her tone. and she said but she can't control herself. and i said, "why do you think that i can control myself?" (points for me for giving off the impression that adults are expected to and can control themselves). i said, "don't you think i'm trying too? don't you think it's hard for me, too?" i don't know how much that got through, but since larry cohen is my book of choice these days, i held up my pinky and asked her if she wanted to make a pinky pact. she smiled but she also felt that was weird. and she said, "pinky pact?" and it sounded like piggyback so i asked if instead of a pinkypact she wanted to do a piggybackpact and she asked what that is and i heaved her up onto my back and pledged to try hard to speak nicely and asked her if she would try to speak nicely during chumash. she thought i was very silly. she said afterwards, "other moms would not do that." i said, "is that good or bad?" and she said, "um..." and i laughed.

anyway, thanks, larry cohen. we did rashi pretty intensely for 45 min. 7 rashis. i had nothing else to do, and the boys had friends over and aharon was just rambling on the floor, so i was relaxed. at one point she was telling me a long and detailed dream and i kept having thoughts of "we are in the middle of the rashi" but then i realized that i often wish she'd share her thoughts with me and she was sharing them. then we got back to rashi.

then we talk a 5-minute-play-with-jack break. then instead of doing chazara inside, we reviewed outside what happened. chana likes that because it's easier; i dislike it because i feel it doesn't help with vocabulary. then we finished the aliyah. didn't do the new rashis. but she put in a lot of work today.

chana did ask if yaakov just rebuked yosef to calm the brothers down, if he actually was waiting to see what would happen.
* i just want to say that as much as i say "i deserve a medal," what actually happens is more fundamental. i reap what i sow. the more i behave with self-control and wisdom, the better my relationship is with her and the fewer long term emotional issues she has. so in reality it's all about the natural consequences. if you think of it as hashem designing the world with cause and effect, and things having consequences, i do sort of get a medal. kind of.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

chazak vayishlach

i feel like some days i am doing chumash all day long. v'hagita bo yomam v'layla. this morning chana finished the parsha (chazak chazak) and did you know the torah attributes the mule to one of eisav's descendants?

then, after a break, chana reviewed chamishi for 7 min. she doesn't know a lot of the words and she didn't get very far.

then, after some negotiation, we agreed on 3:30 for rashi. i wanted to do it when aharon was asleep, and she wanted to do it later. i got distracted and we didn't get to it until 3:45. then we tried to do all of the rashis of the parsha (not in one day!) in the chumash w/o nekudos. we got at least halfway. i see the later rashis chana doesn't know as well. no big surprise there. so today was a pretty heavily intense rashi day.

we started wrestling in the middle (vaya'avek ish imo), thanks larry cohen! i have been looking for a way to be more playful about chumash. then i taught chana the game of "got you last." which she liked a lot. perhaps this is what helped us get through almost an hour (with playing) of rashis.

Monday, January 2, 2012

chana was absolutely astonished that reuven lay with bilha. stunned. i went through the rashi with her immediately. she asked if it was possible that reuven actually did it.

i think we may be over the hump in the tough parts of vayishlach. we do chazara but the words that she asks me for over and over, i just tell her and i am not really making an effort for her to remember them. i remember how hard we worked on "chaser" lack in noach, and it shows up in a rashi, and she still asks for it. i remember how i made sarah use the dictionary which she hated so much, and how i don't make chana ever do it. sorry, sarah. sorry i came to that realization after you were tortured for years.

as far as rashi goes, we are plugging away at plenty of rashis. chana learns to read them and she knows the general idea and she remembers the general meaning. she gets stuck on plenty of the individual words, but she is good-natured about reading the hebrew so i think she is getting a feel for the hebrew. i'm feeling a little not great about her reading always with the nekudos and rarely without them. i really wanted to teach her to read rashis without nekudos. but most days we spend so much time on chumash, that by the time we get to rashi, she is wiped out. we were supposed to have one day that was more rashi intensive. but it's so hard to get the chumash in between all of the other childcare responsibilities, that i haven't been so on top of that. maybe it's time to try to implement that again. otoh, we had chosen the rashi day because she was so resistant to all the rashis and now she does them. she does 3 or 4 rashis every day. sometimes more. mostly review. i have to be more on top of reading the rashis without nekudos. we've so far done 24 rashis in vayishlach. i'm not sure how that compares to schools. as far as quantity, i'm not particularly interested in her covering a certain amount of having a bekius of rashi. i'm interested in her gaining the skill of rashi reading and translating. as i often say, i'm not sure if what i'm doing is going to achieve that.