Thursday, February 26, 2015

More reading

First thing Jack did when he woke up was ask to continue the reading book.  We did another 6 lessons.  The reason he knows the lowercase letters is because he's been typing on the chromebook, which has a lowercase keyboard.  At least, I think that's how he knows them.  Now that I think of it, he was pretty familiar with the letters even before the first time I remember him asking me for help typing something.  I had a printout of the lowercase alphabet taped to the wall this summer when Elazar was thinking about lowercase and wanted to learn them.  I don't think Elazar knows the lowercase letters as well as Jack does.

Jack begged me for the book even before I had breakfast.  I'm lucky that I have some familiarity with this book from when my friend was using it with her daughter sixteen years ago.  My friend had really liked it and had told me the theory behind it, so I was able to do it with Jack with no preparation beforehand, right when he was interested.

I'm also lucky that I have a lot of experience with different reading methods, so that when my unschooling child expresses an interest, I have a variety of options and possibilities that I know about and can choose what I think would work best for that particular child.  I actually tried last week to do some basic phonics with him when he brought me a package to read, and he read some short words, but I realized he wasn't getting the concept as a methodology and I began thinking he would be happier with a more methodical, less haphazard method, and then I remembered this book.

If you are less experienced, and don't have over a decade of educational philosophy and methodology, then don't be intimidated.  It's just a matter of looking around (and asking around) and trying different things.  As I mentioned yesterday, my first foray into Japanese for Chana didn't work out as well as she wanted.  She's still interested, so we're trying something else.  We had a few attempts on finding algebra programs, too.

Trust that if your child is interested in something, they will be patient with you on your journey as you find the best way to teach them.  And even if you don't find the best way or the best program or aren't as adept as a professional teacher (my children certainly feel my math teaching skills leave a lot to be desired), you or they can always supplement with other resources or other teachers.  I think I just want my children to have the sense that knowledge is out there for the grabbing, and when they want it, they can access it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

unschooling reading and writing

I'm still swirling with Chana and high school.  But that's not for today.  Jack, age 5, has been pre-reading the in past month.  Trying to read boxes and packages.  Reading Hebrew and bringing me the reader.

He's also been typing.  He keeps asking me how to type "candy crush" and "rhino rush" and "piranha" and other things.  It takes him a long time to find the letters.  But this is how he learns.  Soon he will get more fluent.  Soon he will recognize when he wrote it correctly and be able to pick it out of the autofill.  Elazar, age 7, is not yet fluent at typing and often asks for help as he types ("How to you write 'room without requirement'?") but he can sound out a lot and is much quicker at typing.  I'm starting to feel a little sci-fi in the sense that my unschooled kids rarely write on paper but type constantly.

Tonight, Jack brought me a book that had easy phonics like "Lad had a dog."  Or something like that.  He read each letter but he was having trouble blending.  So I remembered the book Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons that I somehow acquired (if you homeschool long enough, people give you lots of old books).  I pulled it out and Jack was sitting right next to me so I didn't really have time to read that how to use the book part.  We just plunged right in and winged it and he did the first 5 lessons.  Lessons are supposed to take 15 minutes each but Jack didn't like some of the games so we went straight to the reading parts.  He was pretty excited and we'll see if he sticks with it.

Now I'm off to book Chana's Japanese lessons online.  I bought her an inexpensive app in the summer which she used somewhat but was complaining to me that she's having trouble learning.  She saved up to go to a trip this summer to Japan and she wants to speak Japanese.  I was sort of at a loss so I had given up.  But I was trying to book her violin lessons when I realized that the site I was on had language lessons.  So we are signing her up for 5 Japanese lessons and we'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

out of the box for high school

We got Chana's high school acceptance today.  I wasn't sure if I wrote up for this blog the parent interview I had with the principal.  I was looking for it, but I didn't see it.  I was afraid it was too good to be true.

When I sat down with the principal in December, she said that she had so many questions.  We talked a bit about Chana and her impressions of her.  She said that she just doesn't see that Chana is going to cope academically.  And I said I agreed.  Had Chana been motivated, I'm sure she'd be able to cope.  But I said that Chana had been planning to go to school until she sat in on the classes and realized that she didn't want to sit like that all day.  And she doesn't really do things she doesn't want to do.  I thought the principal got a pretty good sense of Chana from the interview. She sensed that Chana will be disrespectful if she's annoyed.  I agreed with that assessment, and explained that although I work hard to create an environment where we can discuss things respectfully, I'm aware that by nature she doesn't take to authority. 

The principal also said her skills were a 5.  A 6-8 goes to honors and a 1-4 can't be in honors, and a 5 has a choice.  But she thought that while Chana was adjusting to the work load of a 9-5 day, it's better for Chana to cruise rather than be overwhelmed with work.  (I personally think Chana's skills are better than 5.  But she ought to know since she evaluates 8th grade skills professionally.)

She asked me why I wanted to send Chana, and I said that Chana had expressed a desire for socialization and I want Jewish peers for her and girls struggling with Torah and passionate about Torah and voices other than mine teaching Torah.  And that we have Torah in the home but I feel a lot of it is superego and I want her to make it hers.  And I just felt that homeschooling isn't sufficient for her Torah growth and for her having a Jewish peer group. 

Then the interview took a wild and crazy turn.  The principal pulled up the schedule for the current 9th grade, said, "Hmm... when is Chumash and Nach...
Why doesn't Chana just come for Chumash, which is right before lunch, then lunch, then 2x a week after lunch is Nach, and 2x a week after lunch is history and then Nach, so she can have a free period during history.  And that's it."  
I said, "Really?  That sounds amazing."  
And she said, "I would really like her to come on the shabbatones and to the special programs."
And I said, "Me, too."  

She said that if Chana chooses to go full time, she can skip math (since she's doing algebra now) and she can skip Spanish and they can try to work out an extra free period in her schedule every day, but she really doesn't think that will be enough for Chana.

Bear in mind, I did have a couple of conversations with the principal about this.  Two years ago I asked if it would be possible for Chana to come part time.  And earlier this year she asked me how that would work, and I said Chana would officially be homeschooled and she'd just take some courses in the high school but the high school wouldn't be responsible for her academic requirements.  

I said I would LOVE for that to work, but Chana doesn't want to do that because she thinks it will be hard to integrate socially.  The principal said she does not agree.  She thinks that Chana will absolutely integrate socially in that situation, based on Chana's personality and the culture of the school.  

She has to clear it with the head of school, but if she thinks it's fine then he'll probably agree with her.  

I could not believe how open she was to the possibility of Chana coming part time, how she cared about Chana's future spiritual growth as a member of klal yisroel to the point of creating space like that and thinking creatively about what would be best for Chana.  

Practically, it's going to mean kind of a ton of me driving back and forth next year.  I'm having a lot of thoughts and feelings and worries about how this will play out.  But it is an extraordinary offer.

I haven't spoken to the principal about it since, to confirm.  I guess when it's time to register Chana we'll have a conversation.  

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

summer camp

Elazar, age 7, has decided that he wants to go to camp where our homeschooling neighbors go.  This camp has many benefits.  It is 2 blocks away from my house.  It is the least expensive camp, which means it is also self-selecting for those families that are on a budget.  My neighbor likes the idea that it is low key and that the trips are low key (like bowling).  It still has swimming.  And it has a half a day of learning.

Yes, you read that right.  My adhd kid wants to go to a camp with half a day of learning.  Why?  Because his friends have convinced him that it is the most fun camp ever.  (What?  Homeschoolers don't have to deal with peer pressure?  And that's why they need to go to regular school?)  Half a day of learning is great for those families who want their children to be heavily involved in talmud Torah.  I'm not sure it's what I would have chosen for Elazar.  

I spoke to the person in charge, and she was lovely and accommodating.  I said my 7yo wants to go to this camp because his friends are going there.  But he has adhd and can't sit through half a day of learning.  She asked what does he do in school?  I said he's homeschooled.  She said how is he in a learning situation?  I said that we went to an hour class where there was 10 minutes of lecture and then hands on touching the animal.  And he lasted 40 minutes.  She asked if he was on medication.  I said no.  She said not that she's advocating for medication (which was nice to hear).  I said I had full confidence based on our family history, my brothers, etc. that in three or four years his ability to sit would be much better.  She said I am extremely brave.  I said knowing my brothers I felt pretty confident, and I found that homeschooling is a good option for us.  She wanted to know if I wanted a shadow for him or if I wanted to put him in a learning group with a smaller ratio and I said I really thought it would be better if he could just come to the playing part of camp.  She said of course; she just wanted to accommodate him if we wanted to try some of those options.  She wanted to know if he would have trouble in the playing part of camp--would he run away, would he not listen.  I said she can speak to my neighbor if she wants, who knows him very well.  But he's generally a very well behaved child as long as you don't try to make him sit still.

And then I said I have a first grader who can sit for hours but he's very shy and he's not sure if he will like camp or not, but he wants to try it.  So she's sending me an application and we'll see how it goes.

Elazar is very excited.

Dvar Torah: You can't do it all

I was learning with my Aunt this week and she read a pasuk in Parshas Yisro that really resonated with me:

18:17 And Moshe's father in law said to him: "It is not good this thing that you are doing.
You will surely wilt-- you and this nation with you.  Because the thing is too heavy for you.  You cannot do it alone."

What had Moshe been doing?  His father in law had observed that "you are sitting by yourself, and the whole nation is standing on you from morning to night."

Moshe explained the many tasks he was involved in.

I deduced from this that Moshe was the ideal person to do these activities.

But there was a problem.  If Moshe continued to do all these things, even if he was the ideal person to do them, he was going to wear himself out.  That's no good for Moshe and no good for the nation is he caring for.

Substitute "Mommy" and "children" and I've been thinking about this a lot.  Moshe was the best person to judge the nation.  He had the most knowledge and could consult Hashem.  Anyone else delegated to this task would not have those qualifications.

And yet.  If you try to do everything, you end up withered.  You and the people you are trying to care for.

I read this a while ago:

And if you are a homeschooler, throw in "educate your children."  And you still only get two!

יז  וַיֹּאמֶר חֹתֵן מֹשֶׁה אֵלָיו:  לֹא-טוֹב הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה עֹשֶׂה.
יח  נָבֹל תִּבֹּל--גַּם-אַתָּה, גַּם-הָעָם הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר עִמָּךְ:  כִּי-כָבֵד מִמְּךָ הַדָּבָר לֹא-תוּכַל עֲשֹׂהוּ לְבַדֶּךָ.