Tuesday, May 27, 2014

rashi standards

I asked Chana today what, in her opinion, are the standards that would signify that she "knows" a rashi.  She said: "That I can read it mostly correctly.  And that I know the main idea."  It's nice to know we are actually on the same page.

Monday, May 26, 2014

torah homeschool conference 2014

I had an incredible time at the Jewish homeschooling conference.  Until last year, I resisted going, because I'm happy with our homeschooling decision, happy with our homeschooling, and a veteran homeschooler.

But I forgot how much chizuk it brings me.

Caveat: The meager points that I remember are but a fraction of the fantastic things that were said.

It was great to see Yael Aldrich again.  I only met her for the first time last year, but her positive energy and sense of humor is a delight to be around.

I really really loved last year's keynote speaker.  It was an incredibly moving and inspiring experience for me to hear someone talk and agree with everything she said about hashkafa (worldview) and education!  I was not disappointed this year, either.  Nechama Cox was funny, real, and encouraging as she spoke about her homeschooling experience and about homeschooling in general.  She had some great cartoons that enhanced her speech and had me laughing out loud.  My favorite was the one where the child figured out fractions 2 minutes after the mother dropped dead from frustration/exhaustion.  She talked about reasons people homeschool, about challenges, about camp, socialization, about having other people teaching our children.. She talked about being with our children during the best hours of the day, instead of rushing in the morning or exhausted in the evening.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and soaked in inspiration and chizuk.

The first session I had a real conflict.  I wanted to go hear R' Prero talk about chinuch.  I like that the conference always makes an effort to have sessions that delve into the meat and potatoes of Judaic Studies.  Many homeschoolers are intimidated by the chinuch aspect.  I have three boys on deck for chinuch, so I very much wanted to hear that session.  I heard afterwards that his session was excellent. However, I couldn't pass up the chance to hear Avivah Werner speak.  She skyped in from Israel.  And wow.  I couldn't wait to learn from someone who has been homeschooling for that many years and has that many children.  And it was wonderful.  She spoke about how the image that people present (and that we feel intimidated by) is not truly what is going on in people's homes.  She said when she has people at 8pm and her children are in bed and her house is neat, that is not the same thing as when you drop in unexpectedly and everyone is around and living their day.  She spoke about expectations and how we hurt ourselves (and our children) with them.  She amusingly told us about how she planned to have everything all organized and calm before this speech, and what actually ended up happening.  She spoke about taking care of ourselves.  She spoke about how when we feel resentful and say to our children, "You want this and you want that and I've been doing and doing and I haven't even had a chance to go to the bathroom or eat breakfast yet!" our children might say to us, "So Mommy, go to the bathroom and eat.  Just be nice!"  That they would rather have us take care of our needs and speak nicely to them, then sacrifice and ignore our needs to the point where we are grouchy and resentful.  She also made many other wise, wonderful, and deep points.

The next session I chose not to hear Yael Resnick because I heard her speak last year.  Marie Rosenthal spoke about Limudei Kodesh.  She was also excellent and inspiring.  (Do I keep saying inspiring?)  She spoke about our first priority being to instill a love for Torah and mitzvos, to be proud to be a Jew and keep the Torah.  Then she broke down chinuch into three categories: the love for being Jewish, the content of chinuch, and the skills of chinuch.  And how we have to think through our goals of chinuch, and think through what content we want our children to have, and what are the best ways to do that.  And what are our goals of skills, and what are the best ways to do that.  She explained when looking at different curricula, how there are underlying hashkafos (chassidus vs litvak, midrashic vs pshat, what age to begin learning gemara, etc) that are all considered legitimate orthodox Jewish educational approaches, and how once you've thought through your goals, you will find it easier to go through all the different materials out there that can satisfy your personal family chinuch needs and goals.  Marie is also a veteran homeschooler and her anecdotes were funny and educational.  Then she opened the floor for questions, and I had my own opinions of answers, and I was extremely interested to hear how she answered the questions.  She made the point that hiring a young 19 year old yeshiva bachur to tutor navi stories by acting them out with the kids via action figures is a lot cheaper than hiring a rebbe.  One person said that her son loved mishna but wasn't enjoying Chumash.  I would have been inclined to say so let him learn as much mishna as he wants.  But she very intelligently told the woman to change the approach she was taking to Chumash so that her son would enjoy it more by making it more analytical and question oriented.  It got me thinking about how both my girls really disliked Chumash and how perhaps I haven't been giving enough time to that enjoyable analytical approach.  Another woman asked about her reluctant learner and should she push him or should she leave it alone.  Again, I am inclined to suggest leaving it alone, but Marie suggested something that she called "skills 'lite,'" which means continue the curriculum but do it very very slowly.  So you are covering about half or even less than you intended.  So it is not overwhelming but there is still forward progress.  Her answers gave me a lot of food for thought.

After lunch was the teen panel.  We (Sarah and I) went to the conference mainly because Sarah was on the teen panel.  Also on the teen panel were two of Nechama Cox's children (she was the keynote speaker), her 12th grade son and 8th grade daughter.  And Yehudis Eagle's 6th grader.  I was blown away by the panel.  True, my daughter was one of them, so I am biased.  But I was completely charmed by the other panelists as well.  They were poised.  They were intelligent.  They were amusing.  They were everything you hope your children will become when you decide to homeschool.  I loved how each one answered the questions differently.  It was particularly fascinating to hear how the two Cox siblings answered the same questions differently.  When he spoke of sleepaway camp, he mentioned that he had to adjust to the oddity of a lot of rules designed for keeping tabs on people.  His sister spoke about how wonderful it was for making friends and how much she looks forward to it.  The funniest question to me was when someone asked the teens if there was anything they wished their parents had done differently, when I (personally) realized they were asking: was there anything your parents did that was so egregious that they screwed up so badly that you thought it was a horrible idea and had a really difficult time recovering from it?  I think we homeschooling parents are so petrified of the responsibility, we want to know if our grown children will be able to recover from our mistakes (I think the answer was that you don't have to worry so much!).  Another question was: Since your parents are special people, wouldn't you have basically turned out the same if you hadn't been homeschooled?  I think Toyam Cox eloquently answered that the sheer amount of hours spent with his parents, soaking in and learning from their special qualities, cannot be underestimated.

In the homeschooling husband's perspective (which I snuck into), some important points were: If you don't fully agree with the homeschooling decision, and a problem or an issue comes up, it's not a solution to say, "So send them to school."  Try to brainstorm within the framework of the decision you made to give it a chance, or you are constantly undermining it.  Another point: when your husband walks in from a long day at work is not the time to pounce on him with all your stresses and complaints.  Yael Aldrich's husband told about how when he was in charge of making Shabbos and having all the kids and homeschooling while his wife was away, he got a much clearer understanding of what she was coping with.   Also discussed was the breakdown of responsibilities in the household, childcare, teaching, and housework, and how to manage participating in their children's education when they have full time jobs.  I wish my husband would have been there, since I think he has a lot to contribute to these discussions.  The panelists were excellent and it was great to hear their perspectives, as well as to hear from many fathers in the room.  I don't often get to hear what men think about homeschooling.

I didn't go to the sessions on preschool homeschooling, or special educatation, or technology, or workbox education.  I particularly regret missing Yehudis Eagle's speech, especially as I have a middle schooler, but mostly because I want to hear anything she has to say since she has such vast experience and perspective.

The experts panel was also wonderful.  I think for me the most impactful point that was made there was when someone asked how long the academic part of the school day takes.  The most structured and academically intense option was... for 12th grade: four hours (!!!).  Everyone agreed that a first grader can easily get through all the work in maximum 1.5 hours.

time to move on or not?

So Chana's been working on these rashis for about 5 days now and she wants to move on and stop doing them.  She's somewhat familiar with them.  She still makes plenty of reading mistakes.  She still cannot tell from reading what the main idea of the rashi is.

As I'm writing this, it occurs to me that I can have a conversation with her asking her what would be the factors that determine whether a rashi is done well enough to move forward.  I know I've had certain ideas, but I wonder what her ideas are.

Though I have a sneaking suspicion she'll say something like, "I don't care! I hate all rashi!!!"

Thursday, May 22, 2014

rashi rashi rashi

Today Chana decided to read aloud the rashis and I would correct her pronunciation as soon as she mispronounces a word.  Then I would point word by word and translate for her.  We did that.  She did 13 rashis that way and then asked me to do the last 3.  (Those 3 rashis were 6 words, 7 words, and 2 words).  I didn't argue.

She was conscientious about working on pronunciation and she was in good spirits.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


About a year and a half ago I had an extremely difficult time with my 2 1/2 year old.  He had been such an easy two-year-old, so mellow, so easy-going, so biddable.  And then he changed.  At first it wasn't so noticeable; once in a while he would get a little insistent, but it was so unusual it didn't seem to be a problem to give in to him, since it didn't "teach" him to behave that way, since his behavior was mostly perfect.  Gradually, though, he began having tantrums.  Huge tantrums, insane tantrums, 2 to 3 to 5 hour tantrums.  I didn't know what to do.  I usually could hang in okay for the first two hours.  After that, I began to have trouble.  I got mean.  I yelled.  I hit.  I screamed.  The most difficult part was when I was trying to remove myself to get some space, and he would follow me around, pulling on my clothes and shrieking, or, if I would go lock myself in the bathroom or away from him, he'd bang on the door and kick it, screaming.  I didn't know what to do.  

I discussed it with an occupational therapist and a speech therapist.  They suggested maybe, since he was so mellow, he didn't have the tools to calm himself, which other children, who used to get more upset, had learned earlier in their lives.  I tried teaching him techniques like deep breathing.  I tried deep pressure activities, sensory integration activities.  I tried discussing it with him afterwards (by this point, over 6 months had passed and he was three and able to converse and brainstorm and communicate) and we both agreed we didn't like when I got so angry like that and if I needed to walk away and calm down, he would let me, so I could come back and hug him, instead of screaming at him or hitting him.  I enlisted my husband's help and the help of my older kids, who agreed that when I felt I needed to walk away, that they would take over and make sure he didn't chase after me and bang the door down.  All of these things helped me handle the situation better, but didn't really help the situation.  

Last year's seder, he started crying at the beginning of Magid and cried all the way through Pesach-Matza-Maror.  Hours.  

At this point, I was fortunate that from one of my yahoogroups, somebody emailed me offlist about a technique from hand-in-hand parenting called "staylistening."  She gave me some links and offered advice as I stumbled through it, and it has become one of my primary tools for handling temper tantrums.  

The idea is to "invite the tantrum."  Meaning, for example, you let your child know that the answer is No. And then you do not give in.  Obviously, not giving in is going to get him* upset and he is going to try to get you to change your mind.  (tactics: screaming, tantrumming, throwing things, hitting parents, etc.)

The amazing insight to me about staylistening is that you "invite" this tantrum.  Once you make a parental decision, you mentally prepare yourself for the tantrum, and you don't try to stop it.  (For me, that was a huge attitude adjustment but also SUCH a relief.)  Then you let them "cry to futility."  You are empathetic and reflect back their feelings as they talk, but you don't try to change the reality of the situation.  ("Yeah, you are angry because you wanted to listen to the song again...yeah, you're mad at me.. yeah, you want it and i'm not listening to you.. yeah, you want it and i said 'no.'.. etc.)  And you have to block the hits (punches, scratches, bites).  But the amazing thing about it is that they cry, but that's ok, he's having strong feelings about not getting his way.  And he cries "to futility" meaning until he accepts that he doesn't get his way.  I think it's one of the most compassionate and most effective ways of addressing the concerning situation of "spoiling" a child.  And when you see them take that deep breath and sigh, it's amazing.  (At that point I usually "invite the tantrum" again, meaning I say, "You're angry I wouldn't let you have the song again?" and that sets off the tears again, and gives them the opportunity to give that last bit of fury and frustration and upset-ness and disappointment expression.).  At that point, they find it within themselves to move forward and accept the reality.  It's magical to see.

It takes some time to do.  When they get used to it, they can "cry to futility" in about 5-10 minutes, but sometimes it's as long as 1/2 hr or I've had 3 hr sessions**, when I first started this approach, because they had never cried "to futility" while I was compassionately listening and not trying to stop it before.  

*I'll use "him" because I learned this with my sons.

**It's true I had 3-5 hour crying sessions with Jack before this technique, but the difference was that I was stressed because I felt I should be stopping the crying and I couldn't, whereas with this technique, I'm just giving him the gift of experiencing the full gamut of his rage, fury, sadness, etc.

resolution of sorts

So how did it go yesterday?  Aharon screaming about eggs, Chana sniffling about rashis, Chana being emotional in general, Mommy being negative and lacking confidence and feeling grouchy and burnt out?

I dragged Chana on an errand.  She didn't want to go and I put my foot down.  She said she wants to be alone, I said I was concerned about her emotional state, and I insisted.

We spent the first part of the drive with her saying how she is so angry in general, and me saying that this is normal, at which point she asked me-- if it's normal, why am I concerned.  I didn't know what to answer her.

(When I discussed it with my husband later, he intelligently said that just because something is normal doesn't mean we ignore it.)

We went on the errand (by very happy coincidence, two of the boys were on a playdate and Aharon was pretty low key) and it was just time spent together, being physically next to each other.

When we came home, Chana was much calmer.  To the point where I was tempted to try rashi again.  But I've made that mistake before!

We left rashi alone for the rest of the day.

This morning, Chana came over to me first thing and asked to do Chumash.  We did new pesukim, and then started rashi.  She immediately began to get emotional.  She was crying quietly, and tears kept running down her cheeks.  (They reminded me about my mention about the skill of working while experiencing very strong emotions.)  She was upset, but in a place where a part of her was noticing her upsetness.  She commented that her voice sounded like Jack when he whines, and we smiled.  And we had a conversation about her tears.  (And we took a break to look at the pictures floating around the web recently about the different chemical composition of different types of tears.)

We also tried talking about different approaches to handling these rashis.  She said there were too many, and I suggested a few different ways to make them manageable (we'll only do a few a day, we'll focus on some skills but not all skills, etc).  She had problems with all my suggestions.  I pointed this out, and she agreed.  I suggested we celebrate when she got through the rashis, perhaps by going to a restaurant, and she refused.  Why don't rewards work?  I suggested she agree since she'd be doing the rashis with or without sushi, and she still refused.

I read all the rashis to her and translated them.  Although there are a lot, I don't think the concepts are too hard and I do think they are interesting and useful and straightforward to read.  As we went through the rashis, I think she saw that was the case.  It also helped that we waited until she was in a better state of mind.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

down on myself

This is the kind of rut I don't like to spend a lot of mental energy on, and maybe writing about it sinks me further into it.  But I figure a lot of people experience this so I may as well put it out there.

Right now Chana is lying on the couch under a giant cardboard box.  It's a box that has been converted into a car/rocketship, complete with giant window.  The boys have been using it all week.  Right now it's a fort for sulking.

I haven't been so happy with how rashi has been going.  I've been, b'dieved (not optimally), being okay with her being fairly fluent at reading it with the majority of the words pronounced correctly or close to correctly, and knowing the general idea of the rashi.  This is not my preference, since I'd rather she know how to translate it phrase by phrase, and that she would learn the new words.  But it's too much.  I had to choose to do more rashis like this, or to do fewer rashis and concentrate on better translation.  I chose the former, since it has the added bonus of bekius (knowing a larger amount of information).  It has the negative of not working so well to improve rashi skills.

Somehow, today, there are 16 new rashis to do.  Chana is completely overwhelmed.  We must have gone a few days where we didn't do new rashis.  Chana gets annoyed if I scout out new rashis while she is doing new pesukim, and so I try to do it after she's finished.  But that smacks too much of "prep" which I dislike.  So I guess I finally sat down and underlined a bunch of rashis yesterday, and there were a lot of them.

I had to interrupt writing this because my 2yo, Aharon, is having an on-the-floor-kicking-and-screaming tantrum about an egg.  He wanted a hard boiled egg.  I have none.  He took one from the fridge.  I decided to let him crack it because he thought my refusal to let him crack it was a conspiracy to prevent him from having the hard boiled egg.  He cracked it, and then was dismayed that it wouldn't peel.  Then he got another egg to try again, and freaked out when I took it away.  Then he got upset that the eggs I was boiling weren't ready.  Then he was upset that they were going to be hot.  Then he refused the sunny-side-up egg I made with his cracked egg.  Then he screamed when I ate it.

And the whole time I'm still thinking about Chana being overwhelmed with rashi and wishing I could figure out how to reconnect with her.
Aside from rashi not working out so well, Chana's been complaining about how she dislikes math (even though it's going great) and one day last week, she and Sarah were saying how much they disliked Chumash.  Sarah has unfond memories of Chumash.

I've been feeling morose about that.  Why is it that the two subjects I teach them are the ones they dislike intensely?  Is it me?  Is it the way I teach?

It's possible that they just dislike anything where they have to do drillwork.  And yet I know there are teachers who impart skills and the students do enjoy it.

Add into the mix that it seems like my 2 and 4 year old have been tantrumming a lot.  And yelling at me and hitting me.  Or maybe they've been their usual, but I've been edgier.  I have been hearing myself speak in ways that I would find embarrassing if I were to be overheard.  And then I note that I'm concerned with image, but less concerned with the emotional damage I'll wreak.  Am I experiencing burnout?  Am I allowing their behaviors and reacting in a way that encourages it?  I've been out, by myself and on date nights, and it hasn't been helping.  (I've been more mindful of my reactions to the tantrums, and that has been helping.)  So between it being a somewhat more intense toddler phase these days, plus me feeling overall like my girls dislike learning the areas I put the most effort into, I've been down on myself.

It occurs to me that during the early teenage years, I don't speak that much to my daughters (it minimizes arguing), and when I do, it is schoolwork related, and so a lot of our learning interactions are laced with the undertones of adolescent mother daughter conflict.  Is that why they have unhappy memories of our work together?  It saddens me because studying Torah with my daughters has been one of the happiest and most rewarding experiences of my life.

Maybe they got more out of it than they feel they got.  Maybe they have an underlying feeling of dislike of slogging through the skillswork, but maybe they also have an overall sense of Torah that they don't even realize, because it's so much a part of them.

It's hard to not be down on myself and not question and not wonder if I've been going about this wrong.

But I take a deep breath.  Sarah's a wonderful young lady.  I hope, and there is every reason to believe, that Chana and I will emerge from the tumult of these years.

It is possible that I'm teaching Torah in a way that causes them to dislike it.  I'm already trying a different approach with the boys, anyway.  So maybe I made mistakes.  Maybe I bungled it somewhat.

I'm going to take my usual approach.  Cut myself a break.  Let these thoughts simmer.  If I think I made mistakes that I have an opportunity to do better with in the future, then I'll try to do better.  If it's in the past, so be it.

Back to the practical.  I've got a list of 16 rashis and a daughter who's not talking to me.  My priority is to have a pleasant interaction of some sort with her, and that is trickier than doing those rashis.

Monday, May 12, 2014

tefila chabura

Both Sarah and Chana struggle with kavana in shemona esrei.  I suspect they are not alone.  They struggle with motivation.  They do not desire to daven.

Personally, I don't feel the same way they do.  I understand almost every word I'm saying.  I went through a few years when I couldn't say shemona esrei due to the rigorous demands of early infancy coupled with toddlerhood, but when I eventually emerged from that and disciplined myself to set aside the time, I mostly look forward to tefila.

So I was thinking this summer of doing a regular discussion (chabura) with Sarah and Chana about shemona esrei.  I'm hoping to have some conversations where they explain what their resistances are to tefila, and maybe we can brainstorm a bit and find some tactics, and maybe I can convey what I love so much about it.

I'm trying to figure out how to structure it.  How long?  How frequently?  What time of day?  At a specific time, or more flexible? Should I prepare a mental curriculum or walk in and see what happens?

Friday, May 9, 2014

playing with math

Despite my enchantment with unschooling, I haven't made much progress in rethinking mathematics.

Sure, on the surface, it may seem like my opinion about learning mathematics is radical.  After all, I stopped teaching all math for three years, except for what came up naturally in conversation.

However, when it came time to teach math because my daughter asked me to, because she wants to go to high school, I find myself trapped in the same mindset.  The order of learning things.  The way of teaching kids how to solve math problems.

I've read a comparison that stuck with me.  It's like not allowing children to sing, make up songs, play with rhythm, play around on musical instruments, until they have been taught to read music, know the differences between all the types of instruments, and have mastered the technicalities of scales, etc.
We have lost the character of play in math.  And math is essentially playing with abstract concepts and playing with numbers.  The whole idea of, for example, reciprocals, would be so enjoyable if it were discovered by playing around with numbers and how they work.  Most of the concepts of math would be so much fun if we were playing with them.  But we are so busy mastering them that we have no time to play with them.

This is not to get into a debate about should math be taught, should there be basic mastery of math.  I'm a homeschooler and that gives me the luxury of not being concerned with policy.  What I want is for my children to approach the area of mathematics as something they are curious about and something they can play with.

The book Family Math has been suggested to me and I even went so far as to buy it.  Why I did that when I ought to know from science that I don't homeschool like that, I don't know.  A girl can dream.  My friend is using it for a homeschool class and says it's great.

I had a moment this week when Chana asked me how fast a human can run.  We were in the car in traffic, and she was wondering if a human could run faster than we were traveling.  All I knew about was the 4 minute mile.  Then she asked how many miles per hour that is.

Basic math, which I hope an education would afford a person the skills to solve.  So I asked her if, instead of algebra, tonight she wanted to play around and figure out how to do that problem.  She was pretty interested in doing that.  So we did.  We chatted about it, and talked it through, and saw how if you aren't sure about multiplying or dividing, you can see if the answer makes sense in the larger context of what you are trying to solve.

Tomorrow's algebra work has a problem that I can't remember exactly how to do.  I'm thinking that instead of teaching it to her, I'll let her play around with it and see where it goes.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

unschooling Hebrew reading

Remember a bunch of months ago I posted about how my first grader brought me the Aleph Bina one Shabbos morning, and spent an hour begging me to teach him the nekudos?  (I was looking at posts to see when it was, and I found it, and it was almost 6 months ago.)  He pretty much has not read at all since then.

The other day, I was working with a student, teaching him how to read Hebrew, and we were going through the nekudos.  Suddenly, Elazar perched over my shoulder, and he kept saying what the nekuda was before my student.  So I said I would give Elazar a turn, and asked him to read the page of nekudos.  He read it perfectly.

Six months later, no practice, only taught at his request and his passion, and it's settled into his mind.  I was sure I'd have to remind him what some of them were, but he knew them.


why I homeschool my son

I saw this comic and I shuddered.

There but for the grace of G-d go I.  It's just an accident that I ended up homeschooling the girls.  Their whole childhood I said, No, homeschooling is a choice, they'd be fine in school..

It's not like that for my son.  He has trouble even in homeschool classes, designed to be hands on and fun.

Calvin and Hobbes - This particular comic makes me sad and apprehensive every time I see it.

My son does go to bed every night looking forward to tomorrow's big, fun, exciting day.  I'm so glad.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

one reason my children are "behind" in school

As a rule, if there is a conflict between academics and an emotional issue, I have personally evolved to choosing to focus on emotional issues at the expense of academics.  This means that erev Shabbos, erev Yomtov, days where we are going somewhere, or in any time crunch or emotionally fraught situation, academics take a back seat.  I've snapped at my children in those situations too many times, trying to get their work done.

Or if I planned to do academics with one child but then my 3 year old is having a tantrum and I choose to devote a half an hour to staylistening instead.  Or if my six year old starts throwing and kicking things in frustration and I sit down with him for an hour. Or if my 2 and 3 year olds were having a particularly conflict-ful morning and I find my time best devoted to hovering nearby and pulling them apart.

Or if we sit down to do math or Chumash and now that the child has my attention, she asks big questions about life or tells me the dream she had last night. And then the little ones need me, and we missed the window for focused academic work.

This results in my prioritizing other things over academics for young children in the early elementary grades.  I tend to gear towards emotional health. I figure a child who is emotionally healthy and resilient will figure out a way to learn what he or she needs to learn. But a child who has a lot of academics but lacks emotional health has a bigger handicap in terms of functioning in society, holding down a job, and having pleasant relationships.

(That aside, there is a skill of learning to plug away at work while in a bad or sad or angry mood, even though your quality of work is less efficient. We have plenty of opportunities to work on that, too.)

My children are not all grown, and a lot of how children turn out is not in human hands, anyway. But I do think a lot of homeschoolers make choices about prioritizing free play over academics. Or emotional health over academics. Or interesting experiences over academics. Or whatever your choice is over academics. As a general rule, homeschoolers are not lazy slackers. We have a lot to take care of and take into account and we are prioritizing.

I'm not saying don't worry. Worry is a great motivator for keeping us on track and for making sure that we re-evaluate and make sure our actions are in line with our values. But it's so easy to get tunnel vision and worry that we are making mistakes that will mess up our children's futures.

The truth is it is no big deal to be a few years behind. And if a child ends up matriculating, they can catch up pretty easily in a matter of months. I personally have never heard of a homeschooled child who went to school and wasn't just fine after a small adjustment period. And if you're not concerned about matriculation, but for afterwards, the statistics are that homeschooled children end up as functioning adults who are solicited by colleges and are able to contribute to the economy. So why are you so worried?

Monday, May 5, 2014

mental adjustment

I've gotten used to not being in the rhythms of other families who have school.  Homeschooling is a completely different lifestyle, something you don't realize until you do it.  I homeschooled my oldest with a few other children for many years, and it wasn't until 6th grade, until it was just me and my children, that I realized just how homeschooling is so much more than educating at home; it's a way of life.  A way of life where things slow down and you have hours with your children and wandering around and stopping to look at flowers or bugs or construction becomes a way of life.  Pausing to wrestle around and giggle becomes a way of life.  Cooking lots of meals and impromptu baking (or french toast) becomes a way of life.

I realized today that unschooling is even different than the rhythms of homeschooling.  A lot of homeschoolers do more intensive skills work during the winter (hibernation) months.  That's when math, history, reading, writing, etc. get done.  And fall and spring are for playing and doing trips--museums, nature centers, science classes.

It was a gorgeous spring day today, and I was sitting in the playground with a homeschooling friend.  She said, "I guess schoolwork is pretty much done for the year!"  Homeschoolers tend to take advantage of great weather to give the kids a lot of outdoor playtime.

I realized at that moment that I have stopped thinking in terms of yearly work.  I have stopped thinking in terms of grades.

The idea of finishing a particular block of work in a specific amount of time felt odd to me.  Things are much more fluid now.  I guess Elazar will learn to read when he learns.  I guess he'll learn to write when he learns.  I guess he'll learn math when it comes up.  I guess Chana will continue doing Chumash whenever she does and finish algebra when she finishes.  I envision the coming years of education happening as they happen, topics and skills coming up as they come up.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Vayikra 20:20-21

It's odd that these 2 sexual prohibitions are listed as having the punishment of "ariri," meaning to be childless.  Usually these are besdin -- court -- punishments.  Is it true halachically that there is no court punishment?

On a side note, in on of our more absurd and yet classic interactions, I asked her to read the rashi so I could evaluate how her blind rashi reading is.  (People ask how I know how my children are doing in school if I don't administer tests.  I sit next to them as they do their work and get a feel for if they understand the material and are capable of doing it or not.)

Chana wanted me to read it to her.  I said if I read it to her, I won't be able to tell how she is at reading a rashi she's never read before and has had no introduction to.

We bickered back and forth a bit.  I tried some Playful Parenting techniques like pretending to be a teenager and reacting how she reacts.  It did break the tension and it was fun, but it was not actually effective in getting her to read the rashi.  So I turned back into Mom and insisted.

She was annoyed, but she did it.  Then I started to translate it and somehow I annoyed her by not doing it how she wanted me to, and she refused to finish the rashi.

Today is the next day and we haven't done that rashi yet.  It's Friday and now that Shabbos is late, I often think we have plenty of time and then we don't.  I still have to make Shabbos and I don't know if I want to tangle over this rashi today.  I've been not very contentious about rashi lately, because she's been reluctant.