Sunday, April 17, 2016

Seder Prep 2016

You may have been wondering how we are doing regarding Pesach chinuch this year.

Blessedly, Ari feels that all chinuch should be done b'sha'ah sheyesh matzos umaror munachim lefanecha (at the time when the matza and maror is placed before you) i.e. that night.  This is excellent because all chinuch for the seder is at the seder.

Last year (I went searching for the blog post about last year's seder because it felt like a horrible disaster to me but I apparently didn't blog about it) the combination of the boys' ages and the lateness of seder meant that most of the seder was overtired children running around and fighting, knocking over chairs, screaming, losing their shi equanimity.  It was, delightfully, our very first seder with our new son-in-law, who is the 2nd to youngest of 8 children and used to a seder that focuses on lots of detailed torah study, not out of control chaos and tantrums a seder with tired young children who might have been better off having been put to sleep instead of trying to hold a seder.

P.S.  My husband thought it was not bad.  Probably because his job was one-on-one chinuch with each child while I was fielding the conflicts.  Add that to really needing to focus on the needs of the smaller children while fretting about the needs of my grown children (a conflict I have felt over the years as a homeschooler of children with a wide age range, magnified for this special night) and I didn't feel able to have interesting and emotionally stimulating conversations with the older people at the seder.  I was glad we chose to do the sedarim with no company.  And I can't even remember the second seder!

Anyway, we haven't seriously moved out of that phase this year.  Elazar can easily stay awake until 11, hopefully without destroying things.  Jack does okay until about 10:30.  Aharon usually starts disintegrating soon after 8.  It's not our year for Sarah and Moshe.  So if I put Aharon to bed (he's almost 5, he's the youngest, I remember how excited we were for the seder when our oldest was 3 and could "understand" but now we're tired and "there's always next year," which is my newish homeschooling mantra) hopefully things will be more manageable.

Now the question is Chana.  She's she'aino yodea lish'ol par excellence.  She knows the story and has no questions.  She finds the seder boring.  She learned Shmos this year (the Chumash class she dropped) and I thought the Ramban about Pharoah and free will would be interesting, but she learned it already.  I asked her to tell me the story if they were anime, and she described it to me.  I don't know if she'd be interested in sketching a few scenes for us for the seder.  I'm going to buy a hagadda with illustrations that she will hopefully find interesting.  And I have to think about some larger philosophical questions to entice her.  Though I vaguely remember from experience that I haven't had much success in these endeavors.  I have recently begun to wonder if I am trying too hard with my teenager and that wanting so deeply for her to find Torah meaningful is something that an evolving young adult will find very offputting as s/he is trying to find his or her own identity.  I remember learning so many ideas that I was so enamored of and found so wondrous.  I wondered why I hadn't been taught them when I was younger.  But maybe trying to teach them robs my teenager of the joy of her own discovery and causes her to put them into the "reject" folder in her mind.

Huh.  I did blog about last year.  All I had to do was search "seder"
Seder 2015

Friday, April 8, 2016

Our current Limudei Kodesh and yet another reason homeschool is fantastic

Chana is still doing a paragraph of Shmuel I a day.  She reads and I help her translate (ie help her through the Metzudos) until she wants to stop.

We spent this week doing the Abarbanel on Shaul's mental illness, which, thanks to me having taught it one year, I conveniently had a bunch of parts bracketed in pencil that were beautifully relevant.

We were planning to go back to Shmuel but I thought it might be nice to work on mefarshim skills for a bit and was planning to do a juicy Ramban with her.  But then this morning I was thinking about how great it is that I can walk after my knee surgery a few years ago and I started thinking about the bracha "Hamechin mitzaadei gaver" the praise that Hashem "prepares" the steps of man.  I was wondering if that was a praise for walking or for some other idea.  So I googled it to find the pasuk (thank you thank you thank you google) (What is the bracha of shevach for google's existence?  Maybe "Hanosein lasechvi vina lehavchin ben yom u'ven layla" "Who gives intelligence to the rooster to distinguish between day and night") and I found a really great article about it.

And it is in fairly simple Hebrew.  As I was reading it and enjoying it and looking up all the pesukim it referenced and the gemara and some midrashim, I thought this would be great to learn with Chana.  It will be Hebrew and Torah.  So we started it.  She got through the first paragraph and she wanted to stop for the day.  I thought we would cover more in one sitting, but as long as it is enjoyable and it is pleasant, it's ok if we go through it slowly.

We are covering the AP Bio book reaaaaaaally slowly because it's complicated.  We are also reading some very complicated literature.  I think that homeschool is really giving us the unusual freedom to study very complex things very slowly.  Ordinarily, a student who processes things slowly would have to be in a class where the information is less complex.  But at homeschool, we can learn very complicated things in very small chunks.  Tailoring the intricacy to what will interest her at the speed where she can comprehend it.

Another thing that Chana has mentioned numerous times, and I've also read that other unschoolers feel similarly, is that she has time to think about things.  So if she does only a few lines of the essay or only a few paragraphs of the Bio book, she still has hours in the day where she is processing this information and integrating it and really thinking very deeply about it.

Here is the essay we are doing.  I think it is from Orot.

Friday, April 1, 2016

On disengaging and Un-enmeshing

About a month ago I was beginning to get annoyed with how work was going with Chana.  In theory, Chana is unschooled, which means she learns what she wants when she wants.  In reality, I was feeling like I wanted to be available to Chana for a chunk of time every day, so that I can sit down with her and work on whatever subjects she wants to be taught by me.  But between my own activities and the boys, I was beginning to get stressed about having time to give her.  For example, if I didn't ask her when to do work, then the day would drift by, and then be over, and Chana would be willing to do work at 9:30pm but I was completely zonked from a full day plus bedtime.  Then I would get annoyed at Chana.

On the other hand, when I wanted to figure out when we could do work together so that I could plan my free time, Chana was feeling that I only spoke to her in order to schedule work time, or that I pounced on her as soon as I saw her or as soon as I picked her up from her class, and that she was trying to relax and I was annoying her.  (We joked that I was like the seagulls from Finding Nemo but instead of saying "Mine?" I would say "Work?")  Our personal preferences of how to schedule time to work together were diametrically opposed to each other, and if we did one person's way, it severely annoyed the other person.

Plus I was sick and tired of feeling naggy.  I like to get things done quickly and know when they are done.  And I felt like it is on my daily "to do list" to give her about 1.5 hours.  This is not a small block of time (even though I imagine it's a small amount of time to spend in frontal teaching for a high schooler).

Chana and I tried various approaches to work out our opposing preferences.  And although I really enjoy teaching Chana and learning with her, I was finding myself feeling pretty unhappy about figuring out when to learn with her and I felt like I was taking too much responsibility for it.  I felt like I was overfunctioning.  I was fantasizing about not bringing it up and seeing how many days went by without me teaching her.

To me, that was a little bit of a red flag to myself.  It felt like a petty mindset where I wouldn't communicate with her, I would ostensibly be butting out, but really, in my own mind, I'd be simmering with resentment that she wasn't being on top of her learning.

So I wasn't so happy with that approach, either.

This month I tried to give Chana some more space to be in charge of approaching me when she wants to learn.  I let her know that 8-8:30pm and 9-9:30pm I wasn't available because I was doing bedtime.  I tried not to sweat it on days when I was feeling like I had a lot on my plate.  It's not my problem if she doesn't get to learn with me today.  (I didn't really feel like that.  But I also felt like I was creating a dynamic I didn't like even more than I didn't like her missing some days of formal learning.)

I found that on days when Chana is out of the house (yeah, yeah, that introvert series I have yet to write) she holes up in her room and often doesn't want to do work until late at night.  But otherwise she generally started coming to me at some point in the day and asking me when was a good time to do work.

And if I was sitting around with not much to do, I would chat Chana and let her know I was available and until what time.  This has been working well.  Instead of keeping track with whether or not Chana is on top of her work, I've been thinking more about my own wants and needs.  And if it works out for me, I let her know.  The result has been that I've been a lot more relaxed.  And I don't think we've been working together less frequently, except on those days when we go to a concert or something.  I, being a type A perfectionist, would prefer to do formal schoolwork on those days, too.  But Chana wouldn't.  And if I recall from Sarah's homeschool days, trying to cram work into days when we had trips often just made me tense and the kids miserable.

So now I don't think much about it.  Chana recruits me probably about as frequently as I recruit her.  And I'm not responsible for her time management.  Which is a happier way for both of us.