Sunday, January 10, 2016

general thoughts on chinuch

Someone (not a homeschooler) asked for my general thoughts on "best practices" to teach Torah/Judaism to your children.  My first thought is that I have no idea and the longer I am involved in chinuch, the more I realize how complex it is and how little control we have.  But after thinking about it, I realized that in the 18 or so years I've been involved in chinuch, I have developed some thoughts.  Here is my response:
  • What works for one kid doesn't necessarily work for the other. What works at one age won't necessarily work for a different age.
  • Some kids love stories. Some kids LOVE halacha. Both of those are great to run with. A good halacha yomi email can give you plenty of material with minimal prep.
  • Try to end a couple of minutes BEFORE they are bored. If you missed that, definitely end as soon as they start getting wiggly. You don't really gain much by forcing them to sit through the wiggles. You gain a ton by stopping immediately (without conveying disappointment) and saying, "We'll continue next time." They look forward to it because it's not painful.
  • The more you learn, the more things are on the tip of your tongue, and the more you'll end up discussing with them. If something makes you think of that time Yaakov Avinu did such and such, you'll share that with your child.
  • Some of the very best "learning" is having the time to listen to their thoughts and to have conversations with them about things they are thinking about.
  • I try to answer their questions in only one sentence or they lose interest.
  • At bedtime, I ask them to pick a topic, any topic, and then I try to think of a dvar torah about it. "pumpkins" "bunk beds" "curtains" etc. It's a fun challenge.
  • I try to stick to pshat with Tanach. I take the Stone Chumash and read it to myself and tell it as close to pshat as possible.
  • I try to prioritize the goal that the learning should be enjoyable over a goal of learning anything specific.
I'm editing this to add the essay that the person who asked this question directed me to.  It is by R' Aharon Lichtenstein On Raising Children.  It explores some of the basic questions of Chinuch, and some of the basic objectives.

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