Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Yom Kippur

I'm glad we did some tefila prep before Rosh Hashana, because I really didn't get to sit next to Chana in shul much.  The littles were not shul-level quiet (though Elazar sat very quietly for 10 minutes until he began fidgeting loudly enough to disturb daveners).  Bizarrely, there weren't many kids in shul (most went to play at different homes) so my boys didn't have anyone to play with.  Since there wasn't anyone to play with, they came into shul and were hanging out there.  Since my 3yo was talking, we left.

Chana davened silent shemona esrei in shul and heard shofar and then wanted to leave.  And without me there, I was hard pressed to tell her she has to stay in shul herself with nobody to show her pages.  In other years, we've had aunts or cousins who looked out for my daughters in shul.  Not this year.

When I was growing up, I had a good friend a year older than I was, who had a good friend a year older than she was.  And their sisters were a year younger than I was and a year younger than that.  We all were in shul together, copying the girls one or two years older than we were.

For Yom Kippur prep, I was going to go through some of the machzor and show her the different shemona esreis and maybe some of the avoda.  I was thinking a lot about how to handle the shul thing.  Chana doesn't find shul meaningful, doesn't understand most of the tefilos (even with English), and hates it.  I'm not there to guide her.  To prepare, I will go through shacharis shemona esrei with her and make sure she generally knows what to say and has some of the general concepts.  This week, instead of chumash, we'll read Yona together.  On Yom Kippur itself, if we aren't in shul, she agreed to learn the Viduy with me for an hour.  I would also like to do Avinu Malkenu with her.  I think I will forgo the avoda this year and show her the structure of the 5 tefilos and see if we can squeeze in Avinu Malkenu in advance.  On the day, she will daven shacharis shemona esrei only, and we will hopefully learn Viduy.  If I want to be in shul, she will be in charge of the little ones.  (I don't make her watch them all day because she is still young, 13, and not so used to fasting yet, and I don't want her to yell at them from hungry grouchiness as the day goes on and they get rambunctious.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Rosh Hashana prep for 13yo girl

I woke up this morning at 5am when Ari went to selichos, and I realized that I had forgotten to do any Rosh Hashana tefila prep with Chana.  We didn't go through the Torah readings in advance, or talk about Rosh Hashana, or anything.

So in the morning, I asked Chana if she would be willing to set aside an hour to go through the machzor with me in preparation for davening.  She agreed.

First, we went through Shacharis shemona esrei.  I post-it-ed for her, and showed her where it differs from the basic shemona esrei.  I showed her the bolded statements ("remember us for life" etc.) and I decided not to go through the "uv'chen ten"s, all those extra paragraphs in the 3rd bracha.  I figured she knows she can read or say any part in English, and it will give her something new to read and think about on the day.  I showed her the kedushas hayom, the part of shemona esrei that is special for Rosh Hashana, and showed her where the final 3 brachos were, and back to familiar territory, showing her the bolded statements she has to add in.

That is her basic chiyuv, and if she runs out of steam in shul, that is what she has to make sure she says.

Then we moved on to musaf.  I wasn't sure how to handle it, so I asked her how she wanted to go about it.  She said I should read it in English and explain it to her.  She didn't want to read it, didn't want to translate it, and wanted to sit passively.  As a general rule, Chana is a kinesthetic learner, and loathes sitting and listening passively to anything.  She tunes out quickly.  However, she clearly stated she didn't want to be an active participant, so I figured it makes sense to listen to her.

I showed her the beginning, again noting the bold statements, and showed her the "uv'chen ten"s.  Then I talked about how musaf talks about the korbanos.  She rolled her eyes (we just finished Vayikra) so I said they'll sound familiar to her.  Then I went through Malchiyos, Zichronos, and Shofaros with her.

In Malchiyos I emphasized how the other nations believe in hevel varik but we bow to the Creator and that we hope all nations will stop doing idolatry and recognize Hashem as King.  We skipped over the pesukim.  I just said that there are 3 pesukim from torah, tehilim, and navi.  Chana noted that it says in many places that Hashem is King.  I explained the bracha that Hashem rules over the whole land and makes Israel and Yom Hazikaron holy.  We talked a little about why Rosh Hashana is the day of Remembrance.  (And asked the question, does Hashem ever forget?)

In Zichronos, Chana asked why the previous bracha talks about remembrance if the next bracha is remembrance.  I said Hashem's kingship implies remembrance, and that's what we speak about next.  In that bracha, I talked about how there is no need to present an image or try to pretend we don't feel what we feel or don't think what we think, because Hashem knows everything, and there is a certain relief in that.  Chana disagreed a bit and said that thinking that someone knows secrets you don't want anyone to know is disconcerting.  I read in the tefila that Hashem knows everything and sees everything, and that this day is the anniversary of Creation (of man), and it became a law for us to focus on Hashem's remembrance on this day of the anniversary.

I read that on this day it is decided what happens to different nations; war, peace, famine, enough food.  And this is also for all the people, and everyone is remembered on this day.  Fortunate is the person who doesn't forget You, Hashem.  Because those who seek You never stumble.
This intrigued Chana.  She brought up the four who went into Pardes and said, "Didn't people who seeked Hashem go crazy?"  (That was a tough question!)  I ended up saying that trying to become closer to Hashem or thinking about what Hashem would want can help us and that even if we stumble, it can be for growth.

Then I reviewed the pesukim of how Hashem remembered Noach and the Jews in Egypt and the bris.  And we talked about the Akeida and how Avraham conquered his feelings do do Hashem's will, and will Hashem's mercy conquer his anger.

Then we talked about Shofaros, and I asked when she thought Hashem was revealed in the cloud of His glory.  She guessed Succos or in the desert when He was leading them where to go.  I said it's talking about Har Sinai.  And how there was lightning and thunder and and the voice of the shofar increasing.  And how the shofar proclaims the King.  And Chana asked if the Shofar would sound for the Final Judgment.  She was making a joke and I said the pesukim do say it will proclaim Moshiach.

All that took about half an hour.

Ksiva V'chasima Tova!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

unschooling reading

I hope to avoid this by unschooling.  I've taught numerous children to read using phonics.  It is a lot like this :)

The theory of unschooling is that children realize that reading is a way of acquiring information.  They ask you to read things for them in their pursuit of information.  You do.  Eventually you or their siblings get sick of reading things for them, and they hit a point where they really want to be able to read in the course of doing something that they love a lot and are being hampered by their lack of reading ability.  At that point (could be as early as 3, but often 6 or 7, or as late as 11) they learn to read pretty quickly and easily.

Elazar is 7 (2nd grade).  We are in the phase of me or others reading to him/getting kind of sick of it.  His siblings will read to him if they aren't busy.  And I will read to him but he often has to wait until I can get there.  He can kind of sometimes sound things out and when he shows interest, we do that.  But mostly he does half of word or one word and then runs out of interest.

It will be interesting to see if unschooling will work with reading.  I feel pretty confident that it will be fine, and that eventually, before he's a teenager, he'll begin reading, learn to read within days or weeks, and be on grade level.  This is what I read occurs with unschooling reading, and I'm very curious to see how it plays out.

I suppose it's possible that a. he won't learn to read or b. he has a reading problem.  My sense is that he doesn't have a reading problem.*

If he doesn't learn to read (which I think unlikely), there are two approaches.  a. Teach him to read when I get too nervous to let it go on any further, in which case I'm basically in the same position I'm in now except that he has some extra years of maturity and can sit better.  b. Continue with the theory of unschooling that if he finds it relevant and is motivated to do it, he'll either figure it out himself or ask me or someone else to teach him.

*I'm not professional, but I've taught kindergarten and first grade many times, and actually worked with a range of children who were considered to have learning difficulties (as a homeschooler, I tend to take the approach that the child is fine, we just have to figure out how s/he learns and tailor the teaching) that I've successfully gotten reading.  Actually, since I've gotten paid for it, that actually does make me a professional.  What I mean is that I haven't received a degree in special ed.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

un-back to school

I'm seeing a lot of back to school posts.  We are not back to school.  Because there is no school.  We never stopped school and we never have school.  We have life and the learning and knowledge that emerges from life.

It's 10:30am.  The 8th grader is still sleeping until I wake her up or until she wakes up on her own.  This summer she finished Sefer Vayikra and is currently in the middle of revi'i in Parshas Naso.  We did factoring and graphing in algebra, and are in the middle of radicals.  She wants to take trapeze again, but the Yom Tov schedule means she'll miss 3 out of 6 classes.

The 2nd grader is not in the house.  Presumably he's with the neighbors or playing outside.  He's done some writing this summer, which he never showed interest in before.  But he doesn't read.  We figure by the time he's 11 he'll be reading.  Maybe before.  Maybe not.  He's much more interested in moving and playing and figuring out all sorts of projects he thinks up.  His mind and concentration abilities have really taken a cognitive leap in the last few months.  He's signed up for once a week science class this fall.  It's very hands on and has a lot of experiments.  It's for K-2 so he will be one of the oldest in the group.  That means he'll be expected to sit like a kindergartener.  He has shown very little interest in Hebrew reading or Chumash this summer, though the two times he did, the book was there and we did it for the 20 minutes or so.  He continues to enjoy learning halacha orally at night before bedtime.

The 4yo and 3yo are playing play-doh.  This morning, at 7:30, when 4yo crept into bed to snuggle me, he tiptoed out of bed and opened the sliding door a bit.  When he got back into bed, I asked him why he did that.  He said he wanted to know if the metal pieces that were attached to the door would slide with the door or not.  Observation, hypothesis, experiment, conclusion.  We grinned at each other.  A successful experiment.

I was remembering, this morning, that a half a decade ago, I saw a trailer for a movie about this crazy homeschooling family who lived in a van and didn't have formal lessons.  I was both intrigued and skeptical.  No math?  Really?  Is it really possible to become an adult without the lessons that society insists our children need?  Not just an adult, but a successful adult?  Who can hold down a job and be eloquent and function happily in society?  I watched the poised adult children being interviewed and I wondered.
I wondered what it would be like to be free from educational expectations and to focus on the type of learning that is a true and enjoyable discovery of the world.  The type of learning that has no schedules and no grade levels.

At the time, I was not bold enough to go for it.  It's a scary thing to play with children's lives like that.  But the seed of the idea was there.  It happened gradually.

Here we are.  I found from experience with my grown daughter that I have no problem unschooling every subject except math and Chumash.  I found from experience with my 8th grade daughter that I have no problem completely unschooling until grade 3, and I even learned to successfully let go of math.  Here we are with the boys, unschooling whole-heartedly.  Child led.  No grade levels.  Breaking out of the mindset of what "should" be taught or what they "need" to know or learn.  I still have a lot of premises about education, both from society and from what I've read and learned and thought about.

I'm reminded of something I read in Emerson this summer: "Speak what you think now in hard words, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today."
What we understand is fluid and partial and we need to leave room for growth.  But we also must live according to what we understand to be true now.  Even knowing that it will change as we learn and grow.  This reminds me a lot of my homeschooling journey and how it has evolved and continues to evolve.  But isn't that the unschooling mindset?