Friday, June 29, 2012


so chana's been in camp for 2 days now (comments from all her fellow campers, practically universally: "wow, you're homeschooled?  that's so awesome! (pause)  do you have friends?").  i've actually missed doing chumash with her.  which got me started on thinking about the parts i dread vs the parts i miss.  why do i (sometimes) dread it and what do i miss about it?

i miss spending an hour+ with her, giving her my concentrated attention.  i miss hearing about all the little things she's thinking about.  i miss her perspective on a rashi that i think is pshat and she asks a penetrating question that makes me realize although rashi may superficially seem like pshat, it isn't quite.  i miss watching her zip through translation and see how far she's come in her skills.  i miss learning torah with my daughter.

i don't miss her frustration and her anger when she is having trouble translating it and i feel like she can do it and she yells at me that she CANT find the shoresh and then, oh, it's amad.
on the other hand, navigating these conflicts makes me a more patient person (i have seen tremendous progress in myself how i handle this with chana from all the practice i got with sarah ;) and it's great practice for both of us to engage in the art of de-escalating conflict.  looking back, in addition to the usual pre-teen conflicts, i can point to chumash as a solid block of time that went on for months where we both got frustrated and had to learn to back off and regroup and re-attempt to communicate and both have things to work on and compromise and change behaviors and still have frustration and do it all over again.

(which does make me think about unschooling and the tantalizing promise that there won't be so much conflict around learning torah, and isn't torah supposed to be pleasant?  or maybe skills are drudgery and this is the way it goes? **cue jessie whining about how she's not sure about unschooling benefits vs skilldrilling benefits**)

anyway, i'm going to try to do chumash in the car with chana on the way up to my parents today.

but about my navi project.  as is frequent in homeschooling, i had an idea and it took on a fantasy life of its own about how we'd do navi every night and she'd love it.  ok, stop laughing.  true unschooling would be where she'd be interested and i would facilitate her learning.  but there is also an element of unschooling where "v'dibarta bam b'shivtecha b'veisecha," torah is constantly on my mind and we talk about it.  i then go back to the pesach seder and i hear many of my rebbeim echoing in my head: a pesach seder doesn't just happen without the parent thinking a great deal about where the child is at and what type of learning they'd find interesting.  from the kids' perspective, interesting things are happening and then they ask questions and then learning naturally emerges.  but from the parents' end, you need to think about what sort of things will trigger the questions and what approach you want to take to answer those questions.

so back to Summer of Navi.  i'd like it to be that when chana remembers doing navi, it was Really Interesting.  (hehe, jane austen capitalization for emphasis.)

tip #1
ask a child if s/he wants to learn when it's past his or her bedtime.

chana babysat for us last night when we went out to dinner (yay summer date nights! i look forward to that all year).  part of the charm of babysitting is that she can stay awake until we get home.  so around 10:30, just when i was thinking of telling her to go to bed, i asked her if she wanted to do navi.  i figured it was late and she wouldn't want to.  but she said yes.

we chilled on the couch and did the story of ehud.  i gave her the background of shoftim (the cycle of sinning, enemy, calling out to hashem, shofet) and she immediately said that many of us are not keeping torah now but we don't have an enemy.  i said we are in galus and she countered by saying we have israel.  (i did not bring up the midrash "revach tasimu ben eder l'eder" as she's only 11.)
anyway, she enjoyed it and next up is yericho.

i think in unschooling, one of the things that is nervewracking is that the classical way of doing things is very regular.  you do it every day or every week or a few times a week.  you drill and drill.  you plug away, day in and day out, year after year.
and in unschooling, things happen more in bursts.  or there is a lot of fallow time and productive waves.  there is a sudden burst of interest and it's very exciting.  then nothing for days or weeks.  and then it's exciting again.  everything you pursue is fueled by your interest.  your motivation carries you into it and through it.

so perhaps i should not be surprised that navi is not happening regularly, and focus on it's enjoyability factor plus that there is genuine learning going on.

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