Monday, July 30, 2012

ben chamesh l'mikra

elazar asked me a few weeks back why i spoke to him in hebrew.  i took chana's chumash and opened it and asked him what language it is.  he said hebrew.  (he knows at least half of the aleph beis).  i said, "that's why i speak to you in hebrew! so you'll be able to understand the torah!"  and he got very excited and said, "i can understand the torah?" and i said, "i hope you'll be able to understand a lot of the words, and whatever you don't, we'll teach you."  that was the end of that and it went as well as i had hoped.  neither sarah nor chana was that excited that they would understand the torah, though they definitely appreciated that me speaking to them in hebrew would help.  i think that elazar seeing chana and me being "amelim b'torah" so to speak, poring over it for long stretches, made it appealing to him.  (i didn't learn as many hours with sarah, and chana didn't observe what sarah did as much as elazar observes what chana does.)  even jack heard my rabbi giving shiur over the phone last week and noticed he was speaking about aharon and that he mentioned rashi numerous times.  jack (age 2 1/2) got pretty excited hearing about rashi.

since elazar turned 5 twenty days ago, a remarkable transformation has occurred.  i am, as i often am, marvelously delighted with the deep insight of chazal.  as we were strolling outside, and elazar was walking next to me, i realized that he is mature enough to wear a kipah.  i said to him that i think it might be time to start wearing a kipah when he is outside, if he's up for that.  he knows his friends (homeschooling neighbors--yep, i hit the jackpot) wear yarmulkes, and his daddy does, and all grown up (male) jews that he knows.  he agreed, and he asked why do we wear yarmulkes.  did hashem say to?  i said, no, hashem did not tell us to.*  i vaguely remembered (hopefully accurately ;) that it's a minhag not to walk 4 amos without a headcovering to remind us that hashem is "above" us.  so i said that it is to help us remember that hashem is above us.  he got all excited, "hashem is in the SKY?" oops.  "nope.  um, higher."  "outer space?"  yes, classic, i know.  i still remember when we were in a plane soaring above the clouds and 5yo sarah turned to me and asked if we were going to see hashem.  i said, "when i said 'above us,' i meant more powerful than we are and in charge of us."  he likes powers and being the boss so that spoke to him.

anyway, in my usual unschooling/lazy/halfhearted-chinuch way, i let the matter drop.  elazar, though, came home and dug up his yarmulke that a family friend had bought him last year.  he brought it to my parents' house for shabbos.  he wore it outside at least half the time.  this morning he put a hat on before leaving the house to play.  when we were going out again, he remembered his hat and dashed in to get it.

i was pretty impressed that he was remembering and following through, and i said, "i think you might be ready to start learning torah."  he gave me such a gleeful grin.

well, folks, here it begins.  the grand unschooling experiment?  what will i do?  how will it go?  will i end up deciding that pushing the skills is more important?

i love his excitement and delight and anticipation.  is it realistic that this will be his attitude?  or does it make sense that he will have to put in some grunt work to acquire those skills?  (does the grunt work have to be painful?  i think about those rebbes that i hear about, who make learning the vocab and the translation enjoyable..)

how will i start?  what will i do?

he planned to go play some more and then start learning torah later this afternoon.  do i wait for him to ask? ("purist" unschooling)  do i suggest it when there is a quiet moment?  do i just read and translate it?  do i tell it as a story?  do i make any attempt whatsoever for teaching it to him so he'll remember it (ie review it with him)?

i'll do a little thinking, a little planning, and dive in and see where my intuition takes me.  i count on observing his reaction and then i make adjustments. 

i told him the story of dovid and goliath the other day (i told you, he likes the little guy having power, so i figured that would appeal, and it did) as a bedtime story.  the next day, we google imaged suits of armor and slingshots.

i guess he is ready.  i had planned on letting him play for another 2 years, and not start chinuch except very informally, following the dictates of the gemara (or 6 or 7).  but i see that his intellectual spark has ignited.  so here...we... gooooooooooooooooooo....

* note part of chinuch: distinction between d'oraisa, d'rabanan, and minhag.


  1. Are you planning on finishing aleph-beit with him before starting chumash? Or is he to pick it up as he goes along?

  2. i started to answer, but then decided i'll make it a post.