Sunday, October 5, 2014

homeschooling #fail ?

Yom Kippur.  After we finished the Seuda Hamafsekes, I went through the selichos with the 13 attributes with Chana.  She was unimpressed.  Uninterested.  Didn't relate to it.  I asked her to sit in shul at night and try to keep the page and read through in English whatever she liked and see if anything interests her.

I ended up coming into shul for about 15 minutes as the boys played outside.  I stood next to Chana in shul and she told me how boring and pointless shul was.  As we sat there, though, she whispered huge fundamental questions about life and purpose and God and meaning.  She shrugged away when I pointed to parts of the tefila that I liked.  I don't know how much it was okay to whisper in shul.  I tried to answer her questions to some degree.  I think some part of her wants to know what I think, or wants to know the answers, and most of her feels the questions but has little patience to try to unravel or work towards answers.  Her questions make me realize that in my own life, I have questions.

Then Aharon came into shul screaming that Jack hit him and Jack came in after him, defending himself, and I took them home and left Chana in shul.

I thought about it a lot afterwards.  Does Chana not relate to the purpose and concept of the day?  Isn't this because I failed to sit down and discuss it with her and explain it to her?  She doesn't understand atonement (though we did come across it in Vayikra a lot, she usually shrugged away when I wanted to talk about it more in depth).  Hey, can I even explain atonement "al regel achas" on one leg, in a succinct and clear way that a homeschooled teenager has patience for?  How do I expect her to relate to the day when I haven't put in the time and energy to make sure she is prepared?

And I don't mean talking about the prayers.  For a few days we've been debating the mechanics of what she would do on Yom Kippur, how she would pray, what she would pray, where she would pray.  We learned Yona.  After shul that night, Ari sat with her and discussed the different tefilos and brought up the concept of teshuva.  We planned to learn Viduy together (which we ended up doing, the next day.  She didn't really relate to it).  I mean talking about what the High Holy days mean to the Jewish people, what their purpose is, what their design is, how they work.  What teshuva means, how it works, why it's important.

On one hand, unschooling maintains a trust that eventually, she will engage with the day and look for meaning and ask questions and take it seriously.  On the other hand, I wondered if I could have done more to help her understand the significance of the day.

Then I think maybe I'm being too hard on myself.  Maybe she did think about things.  Maybe she's only 13.

As always, when thinking about unschooling, I use the rule of thumb that if I'm concerned about my child not learning, I flip it inwards and focus on my own learning and growth.  Focus on my own understanding of the Days of Awe, and of Yom Kippur, and of kapara.  If I see she doesn't relate to it, that just gives us an opening of where and how to begin.  Maybe next year.


  1. Madame... I don't mean to be rude, but may I ask who your Rav or Rebbe is, and how much you have, and continue to, consult him about your homeschooling and methods thereof?

    1. Thank you very much for your concern. I consult both our posek and my personal Rebbe frequently and am very grateful for their wise guidance. May Hashem be matzliach you in your journey and may you be zocheh to raise children who care deeply about Torah and maasim Tovim.