Sunday, November 24, 2013

Aleph Bina: unschooling Hebrew reading

Shabbos morning Elazar climbed into my bed holding his Chumash.  I guided him through the word "sefer" in Hebrew.  When he realized what he read, he said, "Hey! It says "book" in YOUR language!"  It seems he just realized that all the stuff he was doing with the aleph beis that would help him read the Torah was actually also the language I've been speaking to him in.  He was pretty excited.  He decided he wanted to learn all the nekudos.  He ran to get a flip card aleph beis book that someone gave us, that has the nekudos in a little bag.  We went through those.  Then he wanted more, so we scoured the house for the aleph bina.

We seem to have acquired an array of aleph beis paraphernalia.  I myself bought 3 puzzles that are used with medium to rare frequency, depending.  (I'll admit I hid them a lot because these days it's more that they are dumped than that they are being used).  My grandmother got them flash cards, I printed out something like this and hung it in a random high foot traffic area.

They got these aleph beis flip books that they adore and have sadly ripped apart one of, but they still play with it.  A fellow homeschooler gave us a cloth book and they drag it to me constantly and asked to be quizzed.

On Shabbos morning, casually, in under an hour, Elazar blitzed through all the nekudos.  He did each page until he got them all correct.  I don't know how much he will retain.  But I'll find out next time he brings me the book.

This reminds me of an article that a fellow homeschooler posted last week which I keep thinking about.  It talks about the debate between whole word reading and phonics (We did phonics when I was a kid, and when I started teaching, whole word reading was in, and they've since gone back to phonics).  When I taught Sarah, before I started unschooling, I used phonics.  The question: Why is it that all readers who are allowed to learn to read at their choice, use whole word reading?  But phonics is shown to be more efficient in the classroom?  Another question: Why is it that in the classroom, teaching reading takes 3 years to achieve proficiency, but children who learn on their own, although the age range varies from 3 ("precocious readers") to 11, learn quite quickly (in weeks or months).

**warning: quote of extremist rhetoric*** but I keep thinking about it:
While children out of school learn what and because they want to, children in school must learn or go through the motions of learning what the teacher wants them to learn in the way the teacher wants them to do it.  The result is slow, tedious, shallow learning that is about procedure, not meaning, regardless of the teacher’s intent.
The classroom is all about training.  Training is the process of getting reluctant organisms to do or learn what the trainer wants them to do or learn.  Under those conditions, methods that focus on the mechanical processes underlying reading—the conversion of sights to sounds—work better than methods that attempt to promote reading through meaning..

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