Thursday, July 31, 2014

Just an average homeschool day

"Vayedaber Hashem el Moshe..."

"Mommy, the sauce is finished!"
"And Hashem sai--"
"I'm putting it in recycling."
"And Hash--"
"Wash the jar out first."
"And Hashem spoke to Moshe in Midbar Sinai sayi--"
"Hey, look! It made like a very thin, lot of sauce!"  He's jiggling with excitement and the very thin lot of sauce is bouncing accordingly.
"Cool.  Pour it out before you recycle it."

Chana continues reading and translating.

"Where is a new sauce?"
"In the pantry, bottom right."  Chana continues.

"Where is the sauce?"
Chana pauses. "Does he forget right when he goes in?" she asked.
"Pantry, bottom right."  Chana continues.

"I can't find the sauce in the fridge."
Me: "Pantry, bottom right."
"Oooooh."  Chana continues.

"Mommy, I put my pizza in the toaster.  Can you turn it on?"  I get up and turn it on.

Chana continues reading and translating.  Elazar hanging literally on my shoulders like a baby koala waiting for pizza.  Pizza dings.  Chana pauses.  I get pizza.  I return.  Chana continues.

Jack says he wants pizza cooked second and the neighbor said that his little sister gets cooked second because they're cooking them in age order.  I say ok.  Chana continues.  Jack says, "Tell them!"  Chana is reading around him.  I nod.  Chana reads more.  "Tell them!!!" Jack insists.  I tell Jack to bring in his pizza.

Chana keeps translating.
"Mommy, where is the pizza cutter?" Chana pauses.
"Which one?"
"Black or gray?"
Chana gets exasperated.  "Elazar, I'm doing chumash now!"
Chana says, "How do you say black?"  I say, "Shachor."  She said, "Afor and Shachor sound similar."  "Yep."  Back to Chumash.

Aharon brings in his pizza.  He spilled the cheese.  I go get him new cheese.  I cook it.  Chana continues.
Jack comes in screaming, "Is Aharon's pizza second?!  Is it?  IS IT?!"
Chana: "I'm trying to do chumash!"
Jack is screaming.  Chana's reading.  It's hard to hear.  I tell Jack that I told him to bring his pizza, and he didn't.  Aharon did, so it's cooking.  Jack screams and Chana reads loudly, screaming over him.

Aharon's pizza dings and I give it to him.  Jack races after him, screaming, "Nooo! Don't eat it.  Mine has to be second!"  Aharon hesitates.  I say, "No, Aharon is allowed to eat it.  Aharon, take your pizza."  He does.  Jack starts racing after him.  I hold Jack.  He's shrieking.  I hold him until he says he will let Aharon eat his pizza.  I come back to Chumash.  Chana has disappeared.  I call her back.

Aharon brings in Jack's pizza for him.  He spills the cheese all over the floor.  I dump some of it back on.  Chana says, "Hey, you got up again."  She leaves again.  I put Jack's pizza in the oven.   I call Chana back.  We do Rashi.  Jack's pizza is done.  Chana says, "One more!  One more!  Just finish the Rashi!  Don't walk away!"  But I do or else I'll forget about it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

hinei ma tov uma na'im

I had such pleasant learning with Chana yesterday and today.  She's been so cheerful, making jokes, smiling a lot.  It's amazing how much in homeschooling I sometimes perceive it's about the learning or even about the parent-child relationship, when it's just a phase that the child is going through.

Today, randomly, in the middle of Chumash, Chana asked me if a person davens for something halfheartedly, is it answered.  (Bear in mind, she's 13, so we don't really speak unless I call her over to do work.  So when we sit down to do work, other things often come up, which I'm delighted about.)  I have not, sadly, made the time to do the tefila chabura that I had wanted to do this summer.  (I've chosen learning with my aunt, shiur prep, and date night as priorities.)  So when this question came up, I was excited.  I said if you made an appointment to speak to someone in charge, and then you halfheartedly asked, would it likely be granted?
Then I asked her if she could think of some benefits to asking for something, even if it is halfhearted, and even if there is a strong possibility it won't be answered.  So we are having a conversation about what tefila does for the beseecher.

I've also been asking Chana to write a couple of Ivrit sentences every night when I'm not there.  I told her to use a dictionary (online of course!).  And I check them in the morning.  So far they've been understandable and legible!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

chazak chazak

We started Bamidbar today.  Three fairly simple rashis.  I wanted Chana to write an essay summarizing Vayikra.  She had no idea what an essay entailed.  I looked it up to get a clear way to explain it, and I realized that an essay has a thesis with well reasoned or provable points.  So we decided on a non-fiction piece of writing.

As I suspected, Chana's Hebrew writing is pretty abysmal.  Tonight we worked on form--that it be legible and well spaced, and correctly spelled, so that a reader can read it and understand it.

Chana pretty much asked me how to say everything.  When I told her, she pretty much asked me how to spell everything.  She did a careful job of writing it in a legible way.

I know that writing Hebrew is pretty low on my list of homeschool priorities.  But I do hope to work on it this year.  Hopefully once a week, we will sit down together and work on writing, and hopefully she'll get more able to write independently.  The real question is will I stick to this.  Ivrit is one of the subjects I haphazardly try things with and don't end up really following through.  I remember different workbooks and other things I've done here and there.  The same thing happened with Sarah (though I had her do Rosetta Stone, which she disliked so much that I didn't bother with Chana) and her skills were the poor side of average.  But I think Sarah and Chana would both be able to acquit themselves adequately in Israel if they needed to communicate.  And maybe I'll stick to this.  The boys are older this year, so maybe maybe I'll have some more time to work with Chana.  We shall see...

Monday, July 21, 2014

home stretch of vayikra

We've been reviewing the last parsha in Vayikra, it seems, for weeks.  This is just how it feels.  It probably hasn't even been two weeks.  The Hebrew is complex and I've basically been just translating for Chana while she follows along.  I don't know if the vocabulary will stick in her head any less than if she were doing the translating herself.  And this way there is enough of a flow that she's remembering the meaning of the pesukim.  Hopefully next week we can start Bamidbar.  I would like her to finish Bamidbar and Devarim before going to high school.

Monday, July 14, 2014

I've been really irritated the last few days.  At first I thought it was just because I was adjusting to a new schedule.  But it has slowly emerged that in the last few months, I had the delightful situation of all 5 children being in phases that were independent and amiable.  So when, slowly, the situation began to change, I didn't realize it was happening.  I just knew that I've been feeling like I'm barely treading water, I've been irritable, I've had "too much to do" (but I'm not sure exactly what I've been doing), I've been raising my voice a lot, and I've been feeling generally stressed.

I think what is getting to me the most are the messes.  To take a moment to appreciate things, there was a solid few years where the mess was so outrageously unmanageable that I was cleaning up four times a day so that I could have a path to walk.  I hired two organizers, increased my housework skills, restricted food to the kitchen/dining room, and the littles grew bigger.  It got to the point where I can sometimes go a day or two without straightening and it's just messy and not havoc.  So to turn around and realize I am back to needing multiple straightenings a day again is something I didn't consciously realize and it was attacking my narcissism.

Aside from the messes themselves, Elazar (age 7) seems to be heading back into an Idea phase that is often accompanied by manic energy where he is curious but unintentionally destructive, and he is wild, especially when he is in a place or situation that expects restraint.  Aharon (age 3) has entered the Intense Tantrum phase, where numerous times a day, restrictions or refusals are met with flopping, screaming, crying, and often attempts to hit, bite, pinch etc.  (And he calls me "doody" but that's mostly amusing.)  If I were employed and my employer treated me this way, I'd quit.  Jack (age 4) is his usual self, but that usual self includes a fair amount of discipline these days.

Another thing that has been getting to me is the way that they make messes.  I walked in to the bathroom the other day, and they were making potions with cups of water.  That is normal drippy mess I am accustomed to.  As I walked in, Elazar took a syringe full of water and shot the ceiling.  His brothers cackled.

There have been a series of messes that have an edge of aggressive energy to them.  Although they have plenty of opportunity and their lives are set up to make lots of tactile mess outside (and even inside in a lot of ways), they enjoy destroying things and breaking things and messing up things that they know are part of the home.  When they eat wacky macs, invariably someone flings some with a spoon and then they are all doing it and giggling.  They are making messes and egging each other on and being mightily amused by them.  All this amusement gets me furious.  I found myself yelling to stop it, cut it out, etc.

During the most recent mess (I can't even remember what it was.  It wasn't wacky macs because I remembered to remind them, before handing them food, to remember not to throw the macaroni and I elicited agreement of this before they got their food) as I was yelling, a part of me was thinking that this is definitely not the best way to handle this.  Yelling is not that effective.  Why am I yelling?  What am I trying to achieve?  I realize that I was just being reactive instead of parenting based on my principles, and I hope this week, now that I realize what is going on with these gleeful messes, to devise a healthier and more effective parenting approach.  But unconsciously, what was I trying to achieve by yelling?

On a basic level, I wanted them to stop.  Also, I wanted to "teach" them that their behavior was socially inappropriate.  I wanted to show disapproval.  And I was angry so I guess I wanted to hurt them.  Why don't they know that what they are doing upsets me?  How will they learn to be civilized if I don't show very strong disapproval when they do this?  They "should" know better!

When I stopped to think about this, it seemed to me that there are better ways to teach them that their behavior is socially inappropriate.  Instead of raising my voice, I learned from supernanny, lowering the pitch of my voice immediately signals to the child that I am serious.  Making eye contact and firm but gentle physical contact is also very effective.  Telling the to stop firmly in a low pitched voice, quickly stopping them physically, and then supervising or helping cleanup or repair will stop the behavior, show the children I'm serious, teach them not to do it without making them feel worthless or shaming them, and demonstrate and aid constructive ways to repair the consequences.

So my reactive, instinctual way to "make them stop" is not the most effective and it can have serious negative long term consequences.

I think it also highlights an unconscious erroneous notion.  Although boys ages 7, 4, and a very abstract 3 know very well that certain behaviors such as throwing food inside the house and destroying things are socially inappropriate, destructive, and will upset me (I don't think they understand "morally wrong" yet), I get angry because I am not accepting the reality of young boys (perhaps all children).  It is normal behavior to get carried away by the enjoyment of destructive energy.

That doesn't mean that I have to tolerate it, and I think the method I outlined above will work just fine.  But the fury that overcame me was because I was feeling they "shouldn't" do this and they should "know better" and restrain themselves without my help.

In conclusion, when I'm feeling generally overwhelmed, I take a look at what the stress points are during my day.  I try to devise creative strategies to manage them.  I try to gain clarity about how I was reacting that wasn't working, and to gain some insight into what was underlying how I was reacting.  Realizing that I'm overwhelmed and going into "strategy" mode instead of "reaction" mode is half the battle.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Unschooling Writing

Elazar has been unschooled for first grade.  That means we left him alone to do whatever he wants.  He can play on the computer ad infinitum, or gameboy, or gamecube, or play outside.  If he has ideas, we help him bring them to fruition.  If he wants me to read things to him, I do.  He will be 7 this week.  He recently started sounding out words.

This past Sunday, he decided to write a book.  It has 7 pages.  He mostly sounded it out himself.  He had some trouble with some of the vowels (he gets confused with "a" and "e" or things like that) and some phonemes (like "th") but he mostly wrote it himself.  It took him a couple of hours.  He illustrated it.







(he put squiggly lines under the phonemes "ou" and "th")
(and Sarah showed him how to use his thumb to make a space, just like I taught her.  When I told him to make spaces, he said lines between words were fine.)


It's really rather amazing to see unschooling work so nicely.  The conceptual milestone fell into place, he is motivated, and he does it.  I was okay with the possibility that he wouldn't read or write at all until age 9 or 11.  It's nice to see that he can write when he wants to.  He still doesn't have a great handle on lowercase letters, but he is beginning to get frustrated when he asks me what something says and I ask him to read off the letters and he doesn't know all the lowercase ones.  So I'm sure that will eventually fall into place.

conceptual development

Chana has a few more pages left to Vayikra.  I happened across a gemara yerushalmi this week, and it pointed out something that Chana had noticed in this parsha.  She noticed that shlishi is very, very long.

This gemara (Tal. Jer Megila 3:7) says that you don't stop (for a new aliya) during the klalos, the curses.

אין מפסיקין בקללות א"ר חייה בר גמדא (משלי ג) אל תקוץ בתוכחו אל תעשה קוצים קוצים א"ר לוי אמר הקב"ה אינו בדין שיהו בני מתקללין ואני מתברך א"ר יוסה בי ר' בון לא מטעם הזה אלא זה שהוא עומד לקרות בתורה צריך שיהא פותח בדבר טוב וחותם 
בהדבר טוב
There are two reasons given why not, and I thought it might be interesting to discuss it with Chana.  So today, instead of Chumash, I said I wanted to talk about this gemara.  I read it to her and translated it.  

She wanted to know a) if this will be instead of or in addition to chumash.  (I said "instead of" and she looked immediately more cheerful.)  b) how long it would take (I said 15 minutes and she said okay).

I'm finding that either because of inclination of because of the way I taught, I spent more time teaching Sarah how to analyze and question than I did with Chana.  Very possibly because during the years when Chana's brain matured to that point, age 6-12, I had 3 little boys in quick succession.  During the years when I taught parsha, I always paused for Sarah to think of questions.  I think that with Chana, we were doing Chumash and I was focused more on translation than on questions.  

Chana had difficulty analyzing this conceptually, but I think it was an enjoyable experience for us to discuss it.  

The important thing is that it was enjoyable.  I hope to find more opportunities to improve her thinking skills in the coming years.


If you are interested in the types of analysis we did.

There are 2 answers.
1. Hashem said, "It's not "b'din" (appropriate?) that my children are being cursed while I am being blessed."
Why isn't that appropriate?  Does this make sense or not?
Did Hashem actually say this?  Is this d'rabanan or d'oraisa?
How do we feel blessing Hashem while reading about the curses?
If Hashem is good, then aren't the curses good for us as a nation?  Then why is it not appropriate to bless Hashem while reading the curses?

(Actually, looking back, she did a pretty decent analysis.  But it is much clearer as I write it than when she was actually thinking about it.)

2. When you stand publicly to read the Torah, you have to start with something good and end with something good.
Why is that important?
Chana suggested because it shows that Torah is good and Hashem is good.

I would have liked to do some analysis as to why there are two answers, and is it a machlokes or not, and what the machlokes is.  But time was up and I suspect that is better for after age 15, anyway.