Sunday, April 29, 2012

anti alfie

today chana finished reading shemona esrei for the reward of getting a facebook acct.  she has been working on shemona esrei for months.  when sarah was younger, i consulted my rabbi about sarah's reluctance to daven.  he said that women have more leeway and i can tell her to daven 1 shemona esrei a day and minimal introduction (ashrei or shema).  chana has not shown an inclination to spend a half hour reading hebrew that she doesn't understand and finds boring (aka daven), so i figured that i would gear up to her chiyuv as she gets closer to bat mitzva.  for her evening reading for a while i've been directing her towards different brachos, bentching, shema, and shemona esrei.  when she asked for a fb account, i said when she masters fluent shemona esrei.  this weekend she got on a kick and read brachos of hodaya until she was fluent.  she read the whole thing to me yesterday and then today she read the last 3 brachos and then she timed herself and clocked in at 9 minutes.  (side question: does the school allow as many minutes as it actually takes for kids who are just starting out to read it completely?)  she said she would now say shemona esrei every day.  tune in to see if she is emotionally capable of spending 10 min a night on it or if she will find it overbearing.  hopefully by the time she is bat mitzva we will have gotten through the general categories of the requests and the translation of at least the first bracha.  i was happy that she was picking out a lot of words that she knew from chumash as she read sim shalom: "hey, that's favor, mercy... and what's that one?  oh, yeah, kindness."

also, she's remembering the brachos of yaakov beautifully.  we finished them up (she probably won't remember parts of yosef that are complicated and vague and she and i aren't quite sure what the pshat is, so i don't know if there is much benefit to doing more chazara of that) and she is in the home stretch.  i was urging her to finish the perek, and she was reluctant until i reminded her that her computer is waiting.  then she got excited and raced through it.

i understand that anti rewards is because although it might make the student more inclined to get through the work, it ultimately sucks the life and inherent enjoyment from the activity.

however (i know i always go back and forth about this), it seems to me that there isn't much inherent enjoyment in learning to translate.  (we just read yissachar who digs in his shoulder to bear the burden of torah).  or becoming fluent at davening when you don't understand the words.  (theoretically, we can sing it or make a game of it.  i wonder if there would be different long-term attitudes towards tefila by a child who was rewarded with a fb account for achieving shemona esrei vs a child who was cajoled to learn tefila by pleasant games and songs).

so chana's fb account is only for her online avatar and a platform for her youtube videos.  she is to only be on fb in the main room of the house.  i have permission to go onto her account to check on her activities and conversations.  she is to post no personal information or pictures (it is only for her avatar).

i'd also like to mention that sarah felt embarrassed and upset when she got to school and she was not fluent in the tefilla.  you know how your kid fights you and then you give in and then they come back and say, "you should have pushed me?"  lol is that every homeschooler's nightmare?  :-P
so sarah has mentioned a few times that chana is going to be embarrassed by not knowing the tefilla.  and she is going to camp this summer.  i mentioned the issue to her, and she answered, as sarah did before her: "can't i just move my lips like i'm saying it and just say what i know?"  which is exactly where i said, with sarah, "ok.  whatever you want."  cue future complaints.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"begin with the end in mind" --steven covey, 7 habits of highly effective people

there hasn't been much to report in the last few days.  we are slowly plodding our way through the brachos of yaakov.  i'm looking forward to chana reading/looking at the project that sarah did on it when she finishes. 

i've been feeling like chana is intellectually and emotionally capable of doing some more work--to pick up on math or ivrit--but i think i often get that feeling when things ease up with the little ones a bit.  (bedtime is at the moment fairly predictable, leaving us an evening, when chana has energy to learn.)  however, i'm still relishing not being so busy in the evening and i haven't been pushing it.  i find, in homeschool, that since we are not tied to the schedule of the school, ideas simmer for a few weeks or months before i implement them.  like i keep general track of progress.  it's easy to tell when i'm overloading a student: there are tantrums, complaining, conflict, crying... it takes daily or nightly evaluation and planning to get through that.  but when things are calm and steady, every once in a while it strikes me that it's time to up the level a notch.  or that there is a subject we've let go because it was too much, but now might be a good time to reintroduce it.  that thought usually creeps up on me and simmers for a while before i do anything about it.  but you have that luxury in homeschool.  you have a few days or weeks or months to subconsciously ponder it.

but that leads me to something i've been meaning to write about for a while (i just haven't taken the time ;)
sarah's all grown up now, pretty much.  her chumash skills continue to be ok.  not fabulous, but ok.  is she going to want to learn on her own?  is she going to feel constrained by having mediocre and not fabulous skills?  sarah is a strongly auditory learner, like her father.  he has managed to get through college and graduate school barely reading a textbook.  he got through 4 yrs of yeshiva gedola barely looking at a text.  sarah's bubby, my mother, is also an extremely strong auditory learner and rarely, if ever, learns by reading a text. 

anyway, sarah's chumash skills aside.  something that i advocate strongly in homeschool, in order to make choices about how you structure your day and what you choose to let go of and what you choose to emphasize, is a sort of steve covey (7 habits of highly effective people) "begin with the end in mind."  that is, imagine your child as a functioning adult and think about what you would like him or her to know or what skills you would like them to have. 

after doing this mental exercise when sarah was younger, i came to 4 conclusions:

1. she should be able to do basic reading, writing and math.
2. i would like her to have a sense of responsibility so that if she is hired for a job, she will show up on time, consistently, and be diligent about doing her work.
3. i would like her to have the capacity for satisfying and emotionally healthy relationships with her spouse, children, and friends.
4. i would like her to have a non-superstitious relationship with judaism and torah.

as i thought about sarah's text skills, i gratefully realized that we had indeed achieved the four goals i set forth.  (as an aside, i davka did not push her skillwise because i was concerned about my tendency to over-pressure, which i calculated would be more detrimental than a lack of skills.)

i realize that i had been drifting along with chana's schooling, and i had not done a separate evaluation of her personality, her life, and my current principles.  i have evolved in many of my educational opinions.  part of the reason i haven't done an evaluation is because i'm no longer a petrified, inexperienced homeschooler (or parent).  and an extremely useful experience (but largely impossible with your first child) is to have the child grow up so you see how they turn out and you can realize that things you were ridiculously concerned about actually don't matter whatsoever.  and that you missed the boat on some major things you should have paid more attention to.

so considering that i dumped chana's math curriculum (thanks, seth goden STOP STEALING DREAMS) and that i'm working chana hard in chumash while wrestling with unschooling completely, i think chana's schooling calls for an overt evaluation.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

and it's 8 min later and she finished.  she zipped through them and there were a few words she didn't know and she asked me about them.  and she was thinking about them more deeply, which is one of the things i love about chazara, when it happens.

brachos of yaakov

man, these brachos are difficult!  but they are much easier second time around!  i had to figure out pshat with sarah.  and now with all the chazara chana is doing, by the time i get to the boys, i'm going to know it pretty well!  nice how teaching the kids helps me improve. :-)

i found some good rashis that help understand the pshat.  so we did those.  

and i was about to write: "and we did rashi" when i realized it's after 9pm and i forgot to get back to rashi!!  yikes and grr.  it's been taking her 25 min to do the rashis in vayechi (we are up to yehuda's bracha)  but that's with translations and i think she's ready to just do a read-through in hebrew.  the way we've been doing it recently is after she has been translating them pretty well, we get to the point where if she doesn't understand a word, but she knows the general concept of the rashi, that's fine and she just reads it in hebrew.  sometimes she'll ask me for a specific word because she'll want to know the one or 2 words she doesn't remember.  but i've been feeling like if she knows the jist by reading the hebrew, then that's fine.

Monday, April 16, 2012

back in negative patterns.. or were we?

and we're back.  all through pesach chana didn't want to do chumash.  so we didn't.  and although she is the perfect age to read through pesukim, we didn't do that at the seder.  hopefully by next year's seder, she will have gone through the pesukim, and she will enjoy finding out the details of the story.

but right now i'm annoyed.  all day she didn't want to do chumash.  this is not a surprise.  we were away most of last week and she has been unable to do her beloved animation.  so she's animating away.  it's been about 5 hrs of animation with a half hour break for tv.  i finally asked her what time she would do chumash.  she said 3:30.  however, at 3:10 aharon went for a nap.  and jack is napping.  so it's the perfect time. 

but she didn't want to.  she wanted to wait ***

well, when i sat down to write all that i asked chana to please stop sulking and fighting with me and let me know when she is ready and she eventually did and it ended up going fine.  we only did 2 new pesukim because they are difficult.  we reviewed from the beginning of the aliyah, and we reviewed shlishi.  we have rashi to do. 

when i first sat down to write this, i couldn't believe i was circling back into the pattern of months past, where she whined and complained and didn't want to do chumash, and i felt like pushing her was causing negative associations, but i also felt like she's not a young child and she can certainly tolerate some self-discipline and pushing to do something she is not in the mood to do. (yeah, yeah, my usual conflict).

i did ask her a couple of times to snap out of it, and she showed a lot of restraint.  and i did eventually say to her that i thought she was capable of doing something she found unpleasant for 10 min after spending all day doing whatever she liked.  and i did eventually walk away.  and she did ask me back by saying, "but the words are soooo hard!!" which i took as an invitation and i sat down and picked up the chumash and said, "so what?"

Thursday, April 5, 2012

lice before pesach

in retrospect, getting lice a few days before pesach worked out great.  not only because of the real life lesson of the makkos.  but also because chana and i made a bargain.  i wouldn't whine and groan too much and keep threatening to cut her VERY long hair (my sister joked that really long hair becomes "really REALLY" long hair when dealing with lice, and long hair becomes VERY long hair) and in exchange, she would do chumash every time i combed out her hair.  combing out her hair 3x a day, 45 min each time, and we got a lot of chumash done :-)  we did chazara, rashis, and some new pesukim.  we did through revi'i, and reviewed it enough times that i feel like she had enough time to process it.  we started on the brachos.  chana is disturbed that reuven lost the kehuna and malchus.  (side note: i remember the translations somewhat from when sarah and i did it together).  sarah and i did a massive project on oaktag on the brachos.  chana and i will be referring to it.

the rashis we've chosen have pretty simple language.

chana decided that over pesach, she will choose when to do chumash and for how long.

how would homeschoolers get lice?  we must be socializing somewhere.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Unschooling, Math, and Motivation

I had a fabulous idea for a math problem for chana.  Well, actually, it started as something I was starting to figure out and decided it would be great to fob off onto chana.  I noticed I was running low on face wash.  I have two brands.  One is 6oz and one is 16oz.  I like them both equally.  I wondered which one to replenish.  I thought it would be great for chana to do that.  Real live math.  So practical. 

All she has to do is go online, find the prices for each one, and she'll slowly and eventually realize that since they are different sizes, the cheaper one might be smaller so it's not necessarily the better deal.  Then she'll have to do some math.  She probably won't do it efficiently, but she'll be able to do it at her pace, and it will provide her with a deep understanding of unit price, much better than anything I could teach her from a book.

So I went downstairs and told her I would like help figuring out my shampoo.  She was in the middle of animating her latest movie.  She has subscribers who are waiting for the next installment.  Without taking her eyes off the screen, she told me she's not interested.

I am absolutely positive that as soon as she has her own, limited amount of money, and she has objects that she would like to buy, she will figure out how to get the most item for the cheapest unit price.  I tried to nudge her towards it, but since she doesn't need it now or find it useful, she is not interested.

I could urge her to work through the steps with me.  It would take about a half an hour, she'd be longing to go back to animation, she'd be annoyed that I'm disturbing her creativity, and she may or may not understand it.  Let's even say that she will understand it, since we are doing one-on-one work and i ought to be able to figure out a way.  But she won't be emotionally connected to it, she won't care, she might or might not remember it when it does eventually become relevant to her.

On the other hand, if I wait until she encounters it herself, and she has the idea that these types of questions are answerable with a little thought and calculation, and she knows i'm available for guidance if she gets stuck, then as soon as she needs it, she'll figure it out extremely quickly.  She'll be motivated and efficient.
The other day, chana was trying to figure out how many pages she had left to the book.  She wanted to calculate how many pages she had to do per day in order to finish it in a week.

I wanted so badly to show her how to look at the page numbers and subtract.  I tried to show it to her.  She was counting page by page.  She got irked that I butted in.  I've been thinking about that.  If I let her do it at her pace, using the method that she is figuring out, then she'll have a much deeper understanding of the process and it will be much more real and useful to her, then if I impose my way of doing the calculation.

every day a little more

yesterday we did rashis and planned to start vayechi at night.  but i went out with the boys and didn't get back til 9pm, and chana didn't feel like starting.  so i said she has 15 min in the morning to decompress and then we would start.

however, by the time chana came down this morning, aharon was back asleep and jack wasn't awake yet, and i was enjoying my little peace and quiet of the day.  so i didn't press her.  then aharon woke up, then jack woke up (yes, you read that correctly--aharon woke up from his morning nap before jack woke up for the morning), and then things were busy.  so it was after noon before we got to chumash.

but that's ok because it's the week before pesach so i don't have much to do.

anyway, we sat down to vayechi and chana looked for sheni.  it seemed manageable, so she looked for shlishi.  it seemed manageable, so she looked for revi'i.  chamishi finally seemed long to her, so she was brimming with energy and announced she'd be doing through revi'i. 
i've been around the chumash block a few times, and privately hoped we'd make it uneventfully to sheni.  but hey, i'm not going to be the discouraging voice.

chana had a couple of good questions.  she asked the famous: how did yaakov not know who yosef's sons were?  (particularly as we just did the rashi that efraim was learning with yaakov.)  (based on those rashis, chana wondered if yaakov preferred efraim because he had a relationship with him.  i ventured that efraim was on a higher level.  chana said that menashe was working with yosef as a translator.)

chana also envisioned yaakov not feeling well, then being strong enough to sit up in bed.  she kind of acted it out.  yaakov was creaky and aged, and moved with great effort. 

she did indeed run out of steam by the end or rishon.  but she asked to do sheni and possibly shlishi tonight. 

i underlined a couple of rashis and we did them outside (she also asked: why didn't yaakov bury rachel in chevron if it was so close?) but we didn't do them inside and we didn't review the ones in vayigash.  i am not so impressed with chana's entire grasp of vayigash or the rashis.  i do not feel this is because of chana, but rather in the way i chose to do it regarding speed and lack of chazara.  i think it is important to note that students often "don't succeed" because of the way it's been taught, not because of a lack in the student.

i was pleasantly surprised that chana remembered the shoresh "kavar" bury in all its forms today.

i pulled out the map of the nachalos of the shevatim from the stone tanach at one point because yaakov was telling yosef that these 2 sons would be like his sons, and any future sons would be included in their nachala.  i showed her that yosef didn't have a portion, and that efraim and menashe were like the other shevatim.  we pored over the map for a little bit.  chana noticed that menashe had 2 portions and that levi had none (pretty sharp, chan!).  i flipped to the levite cities map and showed her all their cities.  she asked why they were with everybody else.  i said she'll find out in this parsha.

we also found chevron on the map, and chana said that rachel was the only one not buried there, and she asked why.  unfortunately, beis lechem was not on the map and we didn't go all the way upstairs to look at the map there, nor did i get up and cross the room and take the map book off the shelf.