Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Seder prep for Chana grade 8

I thought free will might be a topic a teenager could relate to.  I asked her what she thought about Pharoah and did he have free will.  She asked what that meant.  I said it means that you get to choose your actions and Hashem doesn't mess with your mind and make you choose certain behaviors.

She is of the opinion that if you choose to violate the Torah and there is immediate penalty like death penalty or plague, then that hampers free will.  She also cited a recollection of a discussion we had about a midrash when Eisav saw Yaakov and how the hashgacha manipulated certain aspects and caused Eisav to view Yaakov favorably (I don't even remember that midrash!).

She already knew that Hashem hardened Pharoah's heart.  We talked about why Hashem would do that.  I can't remember what Chana suggested as a reason.

I pulled out the Rambam and read to her about it being a punishment.

I was going to do the Sforno with her.  But when I looked at it, it felt to me that the sophistication of the flow of the ideas plus the word level would be more frustrating than a positive learning experience.

So I was mulling this over for a few days.

Today I showed her this song and asked her why she thought that I always associate this with Pharoah.

Quarterplay: Harden My Heart

We had a discussion about what it means to harden your heart or to have it hardened for you, and why a person would want his or her heart hard.

Friday, March 27, 2015

what came first the chicken or the egg

Are the kids cranky because Mommy is cranky or is Mommy cranky because the kids are cranky?

Jack woke up too early yesterday and he fought up and down many times and with me many times.  I was feeling overwhelmed with things.  Pesach is coming and I'm feeling like my skin is too sensitive and I feel everything extra.  The noise, the arguments, the crying, the tantrums.  The mess.  The things to do.

I put Jack to bed early last night, and he woke up early again.  All three piled into my bed, waking me in the middle of REM, and started fighting over who gets to snuggle my belly (they all love that jiggly belly.  Big fights start over it).  Screaming, fighting, arguing, pushing, crying.  The day hasn't even started.  Did they need more love from yesterday and I wasn't present because of Things I Need To Do?  Or are they always like that and I'm usually able to respond with mindfulness and love, and things settle down?

I feel like ninety nine times a day I respond in a way that is beneficial for their development.  Maybe more.  I pat myself on the back so many times.  I could have screwed this one up, but I didn't.  I did well.  My whole day is responding to needs.  But lately, those responses are becoming more peppered with impatience, sharper tone, critical attitude, negativity.

I walk out of the house and see the paper ripped up and the dirt and the spoons they didn't put away, instead of the good time they had.  I tell them they can't leave a mess, instead of framing it in the positive of after they play to make sure to clean up.

The microwave timer makes me cringe.  Or maybe it's that it's in addition to the screaming.  And the phone keeps ringing.  I don't answer the phone because I can't even tend to my own needs, let alone my children's needs, let alone to whoever is calling me.

I've wiped the chocolate off the walls and the fridge (oh, yeah, that's why I only bought vanilla ice cream until chocolate was requested), and I have to replace the toilet paper (I don't know why there is chocolate ice cream on the toilet paper; yes, i'm 99.9% sure it's chocolate; probably whoever smeared it all over the place cleaned a lot of it up with toilet paper; it was probably my 3yo).

And it's erev Shabbos.  We've been invited out for dinner and lunch is cholent.  I have over 5 hours to just be with the children (well, I also have Things To Do like return the due books to the library, put away laundry, maybe put things back on the shelves in the basement, and clean up the main living space for Shabbos, and the clutter that is slowly encroaching because I've been ignoring it for months).  None of those are important (except the library.  I will get to the library and bake the challah).  Chana and I have already done Chumash and Math.  It is actually a perfect time for me to try to calm down, regroup, and break the cycle by simply being with the children and focusing on the positive.  Do a little playful parenting.

I'm going to the library.  And then I'm going to roll around on the floor and wrestle with the children.  And the floor is filthy.  And I'm not vacuuming it.  Until right before Shabbos.  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

hear me roar II

Part II of my day: 1:30-4:50 (it's only 4:50?!)

Thinking about doing a round 2 of cleanup.  Did put vacuum cleaner away.  7yo smashed an empty leben cardboard box and it's all over the floor.  Told him to clean it up and he said he threw his out (actually 1/3 of it is in the garbage) and he gave the rest to his brother.

Did algebra and Chumash with 13yo.  Told 7yo to write a letter to his grandfather asking for a skull mask after he couldn't find one on the internet that he could afford or find good instructions to make one.

Kicked neighbor kids out of the house after big fight.  Walked 5yo over to talk to them after they wouldn't answer the door to him.

Made grocery list and weekly menu and worked on Pesach menu and grocery list.

Made pancakes.  Messed up the math (and that's why I don't ever use that brilliant idea of teaching fractions via cooking or baking) and had to call my sister to run through the arithmetic with me and accidentally doubled part of the recipe so had to double the rest, making a recipe that I liked for its manageability into a monstrosity.  I had trouble flipping the pancakes and made a mess not once, not twice, but FOUR times.  Waiting for the grate to cool down before I attempt cleanup.  5yo who requested pancakes (two days ago, but kept asking until I made them today) ate two bites of it and spilled syrup all over.  He swears he cleaned it up.  3yo got himself a fork and tried to cut his pancake with it, and tantrummed when it didn't work.  Screamed for a knife.  I asked him to ask nicely.  He cut his pancake but didn't eat it.  On the up side, I remembered to put on the stovetop vent and I didn't set off the smoke alarm for once.

3yo played outside in the yard with the neighbor and asked if the sink would run out of water.  He put his wet shirt in the laundry (at least I'm taking his word on that--maybe I'll find it later) and said he needed a stool to get a new shirt.  Not sure why he needs a stool for a bottom drawer.

13yo made fruit smoothies for everyone.

soliciting help for commentary choice

Now is a time I wish I had a broad readership because I'd like input.  I haven't been doing Rashi with Chana on Parshas Mas'ei, mostly because I'm tired of fighting through Rashis with our inefficient learning of them and somewhat because none of them are shouting out at me (but I haven't even been looking).

So I had an idea.  Pesach is coming.  Why not do a Rashi about the Pesach story?  Chana noticed we haven't been doing Rashi and asked if there weren't any that I liked, or did I just laze out.  I asked her if she'd do one on the Pesach story, and she said sure.

My first thought was the one on Shmos 38:8 about the women and the mirrors.  I asked her if she remembered doing that one (I think we did it at the time, but maybe not) and she didn't remember it.

Now I'm wondering if maybe a Ramban or Sforno would be better for her.  Something that would get into the meat of the story.  Maybe the Sforno on free will?  Maybe the machlokes Rambam and Sforno?

Wondering if anyone had any ideas for a commentary of about 6 lines that would be good to do with her.

on laziness

This question about unschooling came my way today.  It reminded me that the more I integrate an unschooling mentality into my life, my attitudes change.  I sometimes forget what I used to think about unschooling and the doubts and fears I had (though somehow I still find plenty of things to be nervous about) and questions from people who are newer to the educational approach of unschooling give me a chance to clarify the philosophy and concepts.

The question I got was about laziness.  The first question (before the laziness question) was: What do you do if your kids want to watch or play minecraft all day?

A: They watch or play minecraft all day.  What do you mean "IF"?

(Note: some unschoolers don't have TV or video games.  There are different approaches. Personally, we have an unrestricted media policy.)

I personally feel my sons' minecraft time is very well spent.  But that's a separate topic.

The follow up question:  How do you fend off laziness...or do you think laziness is learned?

It was an interesting question to me.  I realized that I have never considered myself lazy, nor do I consider any of my family members lazy.  I was trying to even think about anyone that I know whom I consider lazy, and couldn't think of anyone.

A: I think the bigger question is What is laziness?  I tend to think that avoiding boring work is rational.

It is important to be able to manage your responsibilities.  I have found that when people decide what they want to be responsible for, and decide what their responsibilities are and agree with them--people are rarely lazy in that context.  Laziness usually manifests when someone is 'supposed' to be doing something that someone else thinks is a good idea.*

*If you are lazy about something that you yourself ostensibly think is a good idea, the question to ask is "what is my conflict."

hear me roar

It's 1:30pm.  I have 10-12 hours left to the day.

I went to work.  I came home.  I changed back into my pjs.  I cleaned up (and cajoled whoever was around to help me) the paper plates that were cut up and left by their beds.  I straightened my bedroom, which somehow got in disarray.  I talked to my 3yo about things he is angry about (the color of the booster seat he sat in today, the neighbors putting him in jail first ["not real jail, mommy"], me not giving him the commercial he wanted to see).  I negotiated a fragile peace between 7yo and 5yo after 5yo threw kid scissors at 7yo after he attempted verbal communication and it didn't work.  It was a complex issue and still is, having to do with turns, alerting or not alerting during turns, changing the order and the cons associated with that, and a criticism on my parenting how I give consequences without warnings ("But that is a house rule and you know it, so it doesn't get a warning--hey, we're talking about the game, not about about those rules right now").  I talked to 5yo about options other than scissor throwing.  I had him put away the scissors.  I made myself a salad (with nuts and avocados!).  I did not feed the boys lunch.  I spoke to 13yo briefly.  I played with 3yo.  I requested that everyone put one or two things away.  I vacuumed.  I did not put away the vacuum cleaner.

I. am. superwoman.

So are you.

Friday, March 20, 2015

prepesach jitters

Chana is on the last parsha of Bamidbar.  I haven't done any Rashis in that parsha.  It looks like she'll easily finish the Chamisha Chumshei Torah before High School

Chana doesn't want to matriculate for high school.  I'm urging her to take a couple of Torah classes (and lunch!) in high school.  We'll see how that goes.

I'm trying to get her to take the algebra regents with the high school, and the paperwork is slightly complicated so I'm figuring that out with the homeschooling office and the school office.

Chana is very much looking forward to NOT taking math next year.  We agreed to do chemistry this summer, when 2 of the boys will probably be at camp during a few hours of the day.  I picked out a book but I won't buy it until before the summer.

I'm beginning to feel like Elazar has been falling through the cracks.  His unschooling is going swimmingly. But now that he puts himself to bed, he hasn't been learning Torah so much.  I'm in that state of kind of worrying about it but not worried enough to do something about it yet.  Since unschooling is a long term proposition, it's not the biggest deal.  But I worry that I'm not teaching him that we value Torah if I barely speak to him during the day (except about minecraft or helping him with whatever he asks me) and opportunities aren't coming up to talk about Torah.

Jack's bedtime consists of reading (he's up to lesson 29 out of 100) and Torah and snuggle.  He's doing beautifully.

Aharon is a tantrummer from hell.  He's sapping a lot of my energy. I'm still in the phase where when we leave the house, at least two children are crying and when we get into the car, there are tantrums.  One day, when everyone walks everywhere under their own steam, I plan to go ziplining in Costa Rica with them.  Science.  I daydream about that while they scream in the car about who is sitting where and that I buckled in the wrong order.  I feel like most of my day with Aharon is trying to be a loving presence who is coaching him through the idea of "olam she'aino shelach" and saying over and over to him and Jack, "Please speak nicely to me."

While I write this, the neighbors are over and the little ones are building forts with the dining room chairs.  Elazar is supervising making lunch.  Chana is still asleep.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

learning to write using the internet

I got Jack an gmail account.  Why?  Because google wasn't remembering his previous searches.  So many times a day I'm painstakingly spelling out c-a-n-d-y_c-r-u-s-h.  Oops, he wrote a "b" and not a "d."  Just use the arrow key, don't dele---!  Okay, start over.  And r-h-i-n-o_r-u-s-h.  We finally got to the point that he remembers that c-a is the beginning of candy crush.  He is getting faster at typing and remembering more.

But now that he has gmail, google remembers his searches.  He clicks one or two letters and his previous searches pop up.  Now he can choose what he's looking for.  His word recognition grows.  I have to dictate less.


I have noticed before that Elazar's google searches have to be more specific than the "creative spelling" that the girls learned to write with.  He called me over yesterday and said, "Can you read this?"  I read out loud: "How to make tutorial in minecraft."  He frowned.  He said, "If you can read it, why isn't google finding it?"

He had written: "Haw to make ti tryal in minecraft."  Google had no trouble with the "haw" being "how" but it could not figure out tutorial.  I explained that the two words were confusing it, and how to spell it properly.  I'm pretty sure he'll remember how to spell it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

unschooling reading

Jack, age 5, is chugging along.  He's up to lesson #20 out of 100.  He has a bit of trouble with reading comprehension but he's doing well with the mechanics.  Remember that I have not taught Elazar, age 7.5, any reading at all.  He only knows what he learned from minecraft and google searches.

Yesterday, he was looking over Jack's shoulder at what Jack was reading and he said, "How come all these words are so easy?"

Jack and I spend about 10 or 20 minutes most days, at his request, doing the reader.  Elazar has never sat down for formal lessons.  Yet Elazar can read all those words.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

this is why i unschool

Jack (age 5) is up to lesson 17 in Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.  Last time we did it I think he was getting a little overloaded.  He keeps forgetting that the "i" makes a short vowel sound like in "igloo."  I asked him if he wanted to do it tonight before bed, and he said yes.  But he wasn't concentrating, he kept talking about other things and looking away.

Which is why I'm not going to ask him if he wants to do it anymore.  When he wants to, he'll ask.

When he asks, he is motivated, he concentrates better, and he goes more quickly.  Instead of trying to coax him every day, I'll wait for him to come to me.