Friday, March 30, 2012

questions on vayigash rashis that chana has, that bother her every time she does them and she asks them:

why would yaakov not kiss yosef?  if you didn't see your son for a long time, wouldn't you kiss him?  why did he say shema?

why does rashi wait until now to tell us that the "hey" at the end is like a "lamed" at the beginning, when that "hey" has come up many times already?

why do they say they are worried that binyamin will die on the trip just as his mother died on the trip, when rachel died in childbirth, not from travel?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

tipping point

yesterday i had chana review some of the rashis she was having trouble with 2 or 3x.  she strenuously objected to it, stating that she had to do all of the rashis no matter what, so this added to her workload.  i didn't respond (though she was correct), and just pointed to each one the amount of times until she did it fluently enough for me.  what i was hoping for, and what proved correct today, was to get her fluency to the point where she would remember the general idea of each rashi, and therefore it would take her shorter to do them.  today went much more quickly, and she remembered a lot more.

she was not grateful.  she did not realize that she had an easier time today because i insisted yesterday on her achieving a certain level of fluency. 

this is part of what makes me wonder whether maybe pushing (using the metaphor of physical training: encouraging her right to the boundary of stretching her abilities) is a good thing.  it has the downside of "negative associations" which i wonder how they will affect her lifelong desire for knowledge and learning.  but it has the upside of gaining skills.

in other news, she did another aliya in vayigash.  she said she remembered it.  the words she didn't remember she asked me, and probably after another 5x of chazara she still won't know those words.  it was a short aliyah but she didn't have much concentration today.  she didn't want to do more and i didn't push it.

she finished review of miketz yesterday.  in my opinion, she doesn't have a solid grasp of it.  if i were giving grades, i'd give her a C.  but hey, it's homeschool and there are no grades.  just knowledge and understanding or lack thereof.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

the house is literally littered with cheerios

(and that's the spare remote/aharon's teething object).  so maybe pre-pesach is not the time to do chumash.  maybe when chana is hungry and 3 boys have spent the last half hour crying, in unison and one after another, is not the best time.  chazara has not been going so well.

though perhaps that is not accurate.  since we rushed through the parshiyos, chana is frustrated at chazara.  she doesn't remember a lot of it.  there are so many words she doesn't remember.  the story line is not clear in her mind (which would help her remember).

i had this great brainstorm that i would read it expressively to her, and she would stop me if she didn't know a word.  but there were so many words that she didn't know, she didn't understand too many words, she didn't have any idea what i was saying.  i think this is definitely due to the fact that too many times when we sat down to review, there was a lot going on or it wasn't an ideal time for her emotionally.  if we had sat down while she was "in the zone" and we had tons of time and no distractions, i don't think she would find it so frustrating.  (this might be a good argument against homeschooling, especially for a kid with ADHD in a family with siblings.) (except for the other good academic arguments for homeschooling* ;)
chana keeps moaning that i'm not listening to her, and i keep saying, "if you wait until the exact moment that i lauch jack onto the couch because he's climbing on top of aharon's high chair and smacking the bejeebers out of him, odds are i'm not paying attention."  (and yes, i launched him multiple times and often that's exactly when chana would resume translating.)

so she's getting hungrier and more frustrated, and so i just read and translated the pesukim to her.  i paused at certain words and asked her, and she always knew them.  because she knows them in context AND when she's not wrestling with the grammar of the words she already knows but not perfectly.  so once i took over, we finished chamishi in just a couple of minutes. 

i wonder if she remembers the other parts of chumash that we reviewed and reviewed and reviewed any better, though.  a lot of chumash is a process and she slowly builds vocab and skills into her long term knowledge.  so some sticks and some doesn't.

today we still have some chazara for vayigash and also rashi.  we are making progress on the rashis, as long as we take our time.

yeah, that's the dustbuster that ran out of juice.

* to specify a few: individualized instruction, ability to go at her own pace, lots of time to pursue interests and passions.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

chana asked: if shepherding was a toava to the mitzrim, so much that they would live separately, how could pharoah ask yosef to put some of his brothers in charge of some of pharoah's sheep?

good question.  i told her i'd look it up.

we started with rashi.  did the ones from miketz, which still need more work.  didn't get to the ones from vayigash, because she was too worn out.  we did some new pesukim, which were fairly simple, so she ended up doing some extra.

i still feel concerned that we are going through it so quickly.  as far as learning the words, i think she will have the same retention rate as she's been having, since there are not too many new words and the few new ones she will get from context or she won't remember them.  that's ok.  but i think there isn't enough time for the story to sink in.

i was thinking about the grand chazara of sefer bereshis.  i had been thinking that i would read (and translate where requested) sections that she seems not to remember.  some of noach.  some of hagar.  etc.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

night and day

last night was an annoying night.  a lot going on, chana reluctant, chana not remembering words she usually remembers, etc. 

today was completely different.  chana has been motivated to finish 3 pages a day because she calculated how much to be done by pesach.  but today we started with chazara of shvi'i of miketz, which wasn't too long and she mostly knew.  then she flleeeeewww through the new pesukim.  she was having a grand old time.  she said: "3 great things (and she counted them off on her hand): i'm almost done, it's getting really interesting, and i'm getting close to getting my computer!"

i had to stop to call in to my rabbi's class so we only got about half an hour done.  in that time, NOT including reviewing revi'i, she zipped through 35 new pesukim and then we got to the names of everyone who went down (which delighted her because they are so easy to translate) and we made it through leah's children.  she said she cannot wait to keep going after my rabbi's class.

one of my favorite parts was before we got up to the names, i had told her that there was a whole section of names that was going to be easy, and she was flipping through, looking, saying, "where do the names start? --oh, there! aleh shmos bnei yisroel."  i just love that she was able to skim and pick out the part she was looking for.  it demonstrates a certain comfort with the language.

we didn't have a chance to get back to it until after 9pm.  it was after her bedtime, but i knew she'd be thrilled to stay up and do some more.  which she was.  she said we're going to be doing chazara on two parshios at the same time!  because i haven't officially started chazara on miketz yet.  usually we take a week to do chazara on a parsha before we do the next one.  but she's just been so excited about new pesukim, we've been doing it that way.  maybe on shabbos i'll just read miketz to her and she'll ask me the words she doesn't know. 

we are also getting behind on rashi.  but i only found 8 rashis on the first 5 aliyahs in vayigash, so it won't be too bad to take a couple of weeks to strengthen the rashis on miketz without falling too far behind.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

the weekend

on friday we finished the parsha.  chana was delighted.  i'm feeling a little rushed.  she is rushing to finish so she can get her computer by pesach.  i'm feeling like we are rushing and she is not grasping the material as well as i'd like.  we were in the car for almost 2 hrs on friday round trip to elazar's bio class, so we finished it then.  it was a bit tricky since i wasn't looking at the pesukim.  i noticed thusly that chana is great at translating the words but less great at grammar, tense, prefixes.  usually i'm on hand to correct her but i was driving.

friday nt we did some rashi.  shabbos she was still raring to go.  and motzei shabbos we did more rashi (the new ones i didn't have a chance to choose because i was driving and therefore could not choose them as we were doing chumash) and she did some new pesukim. 

chana did some math and figured out that she has to do 3 pages a day if she wants to be done by pesach.  frankly, i don't think that's doable.  the pesukim are too hard.  it would be ok if i were doing chumash like i used to do with sarah--just go through the pesukim and translate.  but it barely registers that way, without chazara.  hard to believe i did it that way with sarah.  the faster we go, the more there is to review, and the harder it gets.

tonight (sunday) i told her at 7pm that when aharon goes in, i'd like to do chumash.  sof kol sof, we started at 7:30.  we worked until 8:50.  we were leisurely, which i've really been striving for as i've noted this past week how much more relaxed and pleasant it is.  when i'm not trying to get it over with, and we don't have a small block of time to fit it in, chana can talk about all sorts of things and it becomes pleasant spending together time and pleasant learning torah time and just pleasant.  (chana mentioned tonight that she spent a lot of time talking about her feelings because this is the time we spend together). 

as i've mentioned numerous times, chana prefers working in the evenings.  and now that aharon has a pretty early bedtime, it's been a good time to relax and get her work done. 

we did chazara of maftir.  she did it well.  (we still have a lot to do in shvi'i, but i didn't want to bog her down because after a certain amount of time, she runs out of energy and the whining starts, which is a signal to me that she's reached her limit.  even if i push her past that, it's really more than seems to be ideal for her.)  then we did rashis.  there are so many rashis that we didn't get to do the new rashis that i chose on friday.  by the end of reviewing some of the older rashis that i felt she knew okay but i wanted her to know better, she had had enough.  so i didn't do the new rashis with her, feeling that would push her past her limit and would dim the excitement she felt about new pesukim.

when we got to vayigash, i realized that she had done new pesukim already on friday night (or last night, i don't remember) and she barely remembered them, because she is rushing to cover as much as possible.  she very much did not want to do chazara, because that was boring.  but i was hesitant to go forward while she didn't really remember what happened previously.

i asked her if i could read it and translate it to her.  at first she was reluctant, but she agreed.  i read it with a lot of expression and translated what she didn't understand.  just like the last time i did it, she really enjoyed it and wistfully mentioned that she wished i would do that more.

again i felt that pang that if i were unschooling her, i would do it that way.  and then i felt again that tug of if i would do it that way, how would she acquire the skills.  but i am planning to do chazara of miketz that way.  i hope she enjoys it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

yesterday we did chumash for about 1.5 hours over the course of the day.  this is one of the benefits of homeschooling: when your kid is in the zone, you can go where the attention span and energy is.  no bell stopping us after 45 min. 

today we started with new pesukim.  i did this because she runs out of steam when we do chazara.  then we had a break, and then did chazara.  she remembered more of it than i thought she would.

then for rashi, she said she wanted to do it with ari.  i think this is because i ask her to isolate shorashim, and i know what she knows and what she doesn't know.  whereas he just tells her.  yesterday and tonight i don't think she really has been improving in the rashis as i would like.  i think this is because she feels that there are too many of them.  maybe tomorrow i'll take a look at how many rashis she has to do and break it down so there are fewer of them or work it out somehow so she feels it is more manageable.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


we did an hour and 10 minutes of chumash with a couple of breaks (nursing etc) plus chana could chat as much as she liked.  for some of it, aharon was sleeping.  the other 2 were playing--elazar had this plan for coloring popcorn on paper towels or something.  this was how homeschooling idyll is in my head, when i envision it.  the boys playing something creative, chana asking questions and chatting, and keep returning to chumash.  intimate conversation, relaxing, enjoying each other's company, enjoying the learning. 

for chazara, i read the pesukim expressively (yesterday's 6 pesukim) and she slowed me down or asked me about words she didn't understand.  she enjoyed that so much, she said she wishes we could always do it that way.  i balked, because i think her reading and translating are skills that are important, but i did think in terms of unschooling and pleasure, her idea has merit.  i should try to incorporate that whenever i can.  let's see if i'm able to.

anyway, in this relaxed environment (with the inducement of finishing bereshis because her computer is rapidly declining), she did til the end of the aliya, 10 fairly difficult pesukim.  (a problem i have with covering so many difficult pesukim in one day is that she doesn't really learn the new words so well, or the flow of the translation, and then we need to do a lot of chazara, which is boring.)

we talked about yosef's interview techniques, how he asked them about their family.  i told her to imagine she is yosef, and me and my siblings were accused of being spies.  and her putting us in different rooms and asking us if we have any other siblings.  she said, "and you'd say, malkie."  i said, yes, but if we were actually spies, i wouldn't be sure.  is there another sibling?  is jj going to say there is?  should i say we have one?  should i say we don't?

she remembered "hitmahmahnu" (delay--sorry, i'm not sure of the actual shoresh) (also sorry for my mixing of ashkenaz and israeli pronunciation; maybe one day i'll post about our journey with that, the decisions we made, and what ended up happening) by when i sang it with the shalsheles, referencing Lot delaying leaving s'dom.

we were talking about chazara of the entire bereshis when she's done.  she asked if i was going to make her go through the whole thing, "because i would DIE."  i said i would die, too.  which sadly is a testament to the pain that it is to acquire these skills.

on a tangent to that, in the beginning of today's learning, we were doing the pasuk: "and they said, "the man interrogated us (really asked) and to our birthplace, saying, 'is your father still alive; do you have a brother..."
and chana asked: what does that mean?  he asked to us and to our birthplace?  how do you ask our birthplace?
so i popped her over to rashi, who says it is asking about the family: "l'mishp'chosenu."  she had trouble with it; she kept reading it wrong (and we are using rashi w/ nekudos).  i kept gently telling her to try again, and she kept fuming that she wanted me to tell her.  as she was getting pretty upset about it, i remembered my mother telling me that it annoyed her when my uncle told her to look it up; she just wanted to be told.  and i wondered if i should just tell her.  the other side of me felt like it is satisfying for her to have the experience of reading it and seeing it and discovering what it means.  but if she is getting so annoyed, doesn't that mean she is not having the satisfaction?  or does it mean that i'm having her exercise right past her comfort point and this is good stretching?  (yes, i know, i ask this a lot.  i imagine any serious one-on-one educator does, and i think it is an important question to keep asking.)
when she finally figured it out, she was mentally exhausted.  happily, we were pretty relaxed today, so she was able to recuperate and nobody was interfering or demanding and we weren't rushed.  so it ended up being just a very minor blip and not affecting the rest of the learning.

back to chazara on the entire sefer.  i asked her what she hoped to get out of sefer bereshis.  she said, "a computer."  (she did thank me for pressing her to finish so that she can get her computer more quickly.)

the fact is, she has no particular interest in gaining chumash skills.  she has no interest in reading, translating, insists that she already knew the story (though admitted that she knows it better now and in more detail--but again, she had no yearning for that, so no great gain in her mind). 

i told her my goals were that she can read and translate, and read rashi, and know rashis, and know the story.

she did point out to me last week (with some satisfaction) that she remembers when it took her weeks to do a pasuk.  and now she can do so many pesukim so quickly.

i wonder what my goals actually are, so that i can decide what kind of chazara to do on the sefer.  i would like to think of a chazara that is interesting and fun, and cements some of the skills and vocabulary.

after all that, we haven't done rashi today yet.  it's going to take a while.  probably 8pm we will get to it..  maybe before?

Monday, March 12, 2012

housework and chumash

last night i had the pleasure of having ari do rashi with chana while i cleaned the house.  i asked chana at 5pm to do it, she said 6:30, at 7 i got to it.  then i decided to vacuum instead.  so i buckled jack into the stroller, handed aharon to ari while he was listening to chana whine through rashi, and got to work.  20 min later the first floor was fairly neat.  now i know why i don't do it.  it takes me 4x as long as that, plus breaks to attend to the kids, plus they follow me around dumping what i just put away. 

this morning, i wanted to do chumash pretty early.  chana said it's too early.  i told her that she had all day yesterday, and the whining that went on was just intolerable.  so she chose a time: in 10 minutes.  i was counting down those minutes. 

we did review of a few of the recent pesukim.  i would have loved to review all of chamishi but it is toooo looong.  just reviewing 6 pesukim made her cranky, and she didn't have a lot of emotional energy to do new pesukim.  i always wonder how to set it up.  i tend to mix it up a bit, because she runs out of emotional energy much earlier than i think she "ought" to, and then she gets cranky and unwilling.  if we would have started with new pesukim, she probably would have done more AND enjoyed it more.  but then she would have no steam for chazara.  so she only made it through 3 new pesukim, then we took a break and did rashi. 

she's doing a lot of rashis.  with nekudos.  she said, "all these rashis are not helping me finish the chumash."  i said, "but they are helping you learn rashi."

we had to take a break during rashi because jack kept attacking aharon and i took some time to play with jack to take the edge off the aggression.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

at her pace

i did megila how i like to do it.  i told her in english, emphasizing details she didn't know so that it was new and interesting to her, and at the pace she likes.

it was a bit of a tough sell since today is the last day of one of her free trials for one of her video editors, and she's in the middle of making some action/spy movie thing.  we got through 2 perakim until she asked to stop.  she asked:

  • would mordechai bow to the king?
  • haman wanted to kill the rest of the jews? even though they did bow to him?
 at one point, chana said to me, "i'm sorry, i wasn't paying attention.  i missed that." and i repeated it.  it reminded me of the cartoon my mother cut out over 10 years ago when i was homeschooling sarah.  there is a picture of a kid sitting at a desk in the middle of his living room, and mom says," i'm looking for a volunteer to do a report on boll weevils.  no volunteers?  nobody?  i'm going to have to pick one..."
and the caption says: the down side of homeschooling

it's true that i tend to notice very quickly when my student stops paying attention.  that's because most of our learning is interactive.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

al pi darko

today during chumash time, i pulled out the condensed version of pesukim i culled from the megilla to make the bare bones of the story.  i read it to her and translated it. 

i realized that this was not the way to go this year.  i am reminded of my friend's wise words: any year that you have a baby, kiss that year of homeschooling good-bye.

so really, as aharon is only 9mo, anything we do this year is gravy ;-)

the problem with doing it so bare bones is that chana was ready to have a much more sophisticated level of detail in the story.  when i read the first 3 perakim to her in english, the details she focused on and the things she noticed and commented on and the questions she asked were fairly detailed and sophisticated.  since the entire word for word translation was a little TOO detailed and boring, i made the mistake of thinking we could whiz through what we did in previous years.  this was also boring, and not detailed enough. 

as usual, i am back to the idea that i don't use a curriculum or supplies because in the moment, i need to make decisions about how and what to teach. 

i think tomorrow i will take a block of time, with no agenda in terms of amount to cover, and just go through it at exactly her pace and with the amount of details that will be interesting to her.

i think she would greatly enjoy navi this way (after seeing our thwarted attempt at the little midrash says).  i am finding, though, that i just don't have the time/energy to throw another subject into the mix.  however, that might be a good idea for a summer project.  if i don't have her translate, and just do the story with her, we can do some navi this summer.

Another argument for unlimited multimedia

I downloaded Seth Godin's book Stop Stealing Dreams.  I'm 32% through it.  I have read some of Seth Godin's posts via Trent from The Simple Dollar's roundup edition, where he appears regularly.  I am fascinated by his understanding of the post-industrialized world, the world of connection, and his description of the educational model that will be effective.  He writes about how even 5th graders can educate themselves with this new connectivity.  I have seen this with Chana; in her quest for animation, she finds techniques that she wants to learn, and then she contacts the people who do it and requests tips, or, even better, for them to make a youtube tutorial.  Within a few hours, a tutorial is up in response.  She then can ask questions.  It's remarkable. 

I'm really looking forward to reading the rest.  It confirms that the unschooling, or "child-led" model of education is efficient and full of passion and excitement.

He says (and it's obvious, really, but Seth Godin is always full of good sense that is obvious in retrospect and I need him to say it), the connectivity of instant, world wide communication allows people with the same passions and interests to find each other.  Now we can have conversations with each other and learn and grow from each other.  And collaborate.  And information doesn't need to be hoarded or memorized.  It is all instantly available. 

Here is a quote that is apropos of the question of allowing children unlimited access to technology and multimedia:

A citizen can spend his spare time getting smarter, more motivated, and more involved, or he can tune out, drop out, and entertain himself into a stupor.

Nurturing children to follow their passions will likely encourage them, especially with unlimited media access, to follow dreams.  Another quote: "Settling for the not-particularly uplifting dream of a boring, steady job isn't helpful.  Dreaming of being picked--picked to be on TV...or picked to be lucky--isn't helpful either..The dreams we need are self-reliant dreams.  We need dreams based not on what is but on what might be.  We need students who can learn how to learn, who can discover how to push themselves and are generous enough and honest enough to engage with the outside world to make those dreams happen."

Monday, March 5, 2012

on choice in unschooling

As far as video game execs creating games to suck in my kid as long as possible, I once read an education article saying that video games are the perfect paradigm of education.  They are challenging in difficulty, getting incrementally more challenging in an exciting way that builds up and up as you improve.  They give emotional satisfaction from solving problems.  Those are the factors that make video games great :-)  I try to model my lessons after them.

Again, I will be keeping a close eye on elazar and the other boys when they get old enough, but right now the part that he loves is the figuring out, the mastering, and the achievement.  Leonard Sax's point is well taken that boys need these same satisfactions in the real world, or they risk being sucked in to enjoy it via media and not deal with the frustrations of the real world.  But I hope homeschooling will give my boys many happy hours of enjoyable real world challenges.  It may very well be that given a choice of the stifling way that we make boys behave vs media, that they will choose media.
Elazar woke up at 5:45, chose to snuggle for 1/2 hr, then watched Shrek III 2.5 times (I assume that's about 5 hrs.  I heard him repeating some of the lines and mimicking their tone).  Then he desperately wanted friend interaction and activity.  Based on the Are You Hungry paradigm, I firmly believe that kids will choose activities the same way that they choose food, and IF all things are offered, and IF there are no underlying emotional issues that are being expressed, children will choose moderation and balance, and a mix of everything.

As I say over and over, I am open to the possibility that this is not true, and I will keep an eye to see what is happening.  But so far all indications point to lots of choosing.

*Are You Hungry?: A Completely New Approach to Raising Children Free of Food and Weight Problems [Hardcover]

Jane R. Hirschmann (Author), Lela Zaphiropoulos (Author)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

2 unexpected things

i was thinking of skipping today.  last night, motzei shabbos, we had to pay a shiva call that took 3 hrs travel time and 1 hr there.  i brought the chumash in the car but 1. it was night time and there was no light and 2. chana was hungry and thus grouchy and even if we could have seen, she wasn't in a good state.  then today we had a bat mitzva (awesome fun :) and getting ready took all day.  (not really, but i realized this morning that elazar and i wake up raring to go, whereas chana doesn't).  and then we had a purim chagiga, and i was feeling like i was just going to let today slide.  but chana came in and asked if she would be permitted to use her computer in bed this evening just to do some movie making thing. 

(side point: usually chana is not permitted on the internet in her room, which i was happy about yet again this morning as she has her youtube channel and someone kept asking her about being friends on facebook and she consulted me on how to respond: "my mom doesn't let me be friends with people i don't know in real life.")

so i said she could use her computer this evening in bed, and she looked at the clock, and said, "ok, so i have time to do chumash." 

well.  that was unexpected.  so i asked her what she wanted to do.  and she said, "new pesukim and rashi."  so we did new pesukim.  i said they were difficult.  she asked how many we would do.  i said however many she wanted.  we ended up finishing chamishi.  at one point she said, "why are these taking so long?  oh, yeah.  you said they were hard."  and then when she got through the tough ones (5) there were only 2 or 3 more til the end, and they weren't so difficult.  afterwards, i really wanted to review them again.  because even though she wasn't in a bad mood, her focus was not there.  one rashi which she found hard but we had been making some progress on, she didn't know a single word.  and til now, she'd been improving every reading.  sometimes she doesn't learn well because she is angry or in a bad mood or has different expectations.  but today she was just not concentrating well.  maybe because she went to bed after midnight last night and woke up early and she has a cold.  it was interesting because most usually she has trouble translating or understanding for emotional reasons; tonight it seemed to be physical.  come to think of it, when she's hungry she has trouble too--but that usually expresses itself as her being in a bad mood or grouchy.  anyhoo, she asked if we could review it tomorrow instead. 

i felt, perhaps incorrectly, that the neural pathways would be more easily treaded if we reviewed it right away.  i have intuitions about these things based on hazy memories (no irony intended) of scientific articles i read about blazing neural pathways.  so i asked her if she would pay attention if i read it.  she assured me she would.

so i read it with a lot of expression, reading and translating.  i watched her to see if she was paying attention.  she was actually mesmerized, which i gotta tell you is unusual regarding chumash.  i asked her afterwards if she liked it, and she said it was like i was reading her A Little Princess (which i am in the middle of reading to her).

i wonder if it might be a good idea to mix up chazara with me reading it to her like that.  as a general rule, i don't like to do that because it is passive not active, and the student has a tendency to mentally wander off.  but if she'll enjoy it, i will definitely do it.